7 habits to kickstart your learning journey in 2024

Reward yourself for mini achievements

As we start 2024 many people across the globe are filled with a sense of renewal and the desire to achieve personal and professional growth. They will set themselves goals for the year or, dare I say it, New Year’s resolutions.

If self-directed learning is on your list of resolutions for this year, I’ll explore 7 strategies for forming habits to support your learning journey. Whatever you aspire to achieve – losing weight, more quality time with family, financial security – it demands the formation of habits that will propel you toward your goals, so I’ll also provide a brief overview of how to form habits. Let’s go!

Side note: It’s estimated that almost a third (30%) of Brits will set resolutions this year – see Forbes Advisor’s article: British New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2024 for some really useful information on who is setting resolutions, most common resolutions, and how long they commit to them.

1 Set clear and attainable goals:

Start by defining your learning objectives. What skills do you want to acquire? What knowledge do you wish to gain? Break down your overarching goals into smaller, manageable tasks. This not only makes your learning journey less overwhelming but also provides clear milestones to track your progress.

2 Create a realistic schedule:

Consistency is key when it comes to forming habits. Design a schedule that aligns with your daily routine, allocating specific time slots for your self-directed learning activities. Whether it’s dedicating 30 minutes each morning or an hour before bedtime, make sure your schedule is realistic and sustainable.

3 Utilise technology:

Make the most of technology to streamline your learning process. There are various apps and platforms designed to facilitate self-directed learning, offering resources, tutorials, and interactive exercises. Leverage tools like online courses, educational apps, and productivity apps to stay organized and engaged in your learning journey.

4 Create a dedicated learning space:

Designate a specific space for your self-directed learning activities. This could be a corner of your home, a cozy coffee shop, or a quiet library. Having a dedicated learning environment helps signal to your brain that it’s time to focus and concentrate, enhancing your ability to absorb information effectively.

5 Practice consistent reflection:

Regularly reflect on your progress and the effectiveness of your learning strategies. What is working well? What could be improved? Adjust your habits accordingly. Self-awareness is a powerful tool in refining your approach and ensuring that your learning journey remains dynamic and fulfilling.

6 Reward yourself:

Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Incorporate a reward system into your self-directed learning routine. This could be as simple as treating yourself to a favourite snack or taking a short break to do something enjoyable. Rewards reinforce positive behaviour and motivate you to stay committed to your habits.

7 Join a learning community:

Engage with like-minded individuals who share similar learning goals. Join online forums, discussion groups, or local meetups where you can exchange ideas, seek advice, and find inspiration. A supportive community can provide accountability and encouragement during challenging times.

How to form good habits

The 7 strategies above will help you to keep your resolutions on-track until you meet your goal. However, each strategy is a habit and some of these habits may be new to you and others may require you to break old habits. So let’s briefly look at what a habit is. A habit is a long loose garment worn by a member of a religious order. (Factually correct but irrelevant in this context, read the next paragraph instead.)

A habit is your usual way of behaving, something you do often in a regular and repeated way. For example, I’ve worked remotely for 17 years and just before I start work I take a walk around the block so I’m ‘arriving at work’ – that’s my habit, my behaviour.

Mostly habits are behaviours that are hard to give up, such as biting your nails, watching too much TV, or quitting smoking. So, how do we replace bad habits with good habits? I recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg or Atomic Habits by James Clear if you want to explore this subject in depth. For now, I’ll briefly outline Clear’s ‘Four Laws of Behaviour Change’, a framework to build better habits.

  1. Make it obvious: make it clear and visible when and where the habit should occur e.g. Set a specific time to reflect on your learning.
  2. Make it attractive: make your habit appealing and positive i.e. Focus on the benefits and rewards of the habit.
  3. Make it easy: minimise the effort required to initiate the behaviour e.g. Set clear and attainable goals by chunking habit into smaller, manageable steps.
  4. Make it satisfying: celebrate small victories along the way i.e. Reward yourself.

Finally, the word ‘resolution’ in the context of a New Year’s resolution originally comes from the Latin verb ‘resolvere’, which means ‘to loosen’ or ‘to release’. The term evolved through Old French and Middle English, eventually adopting the meaning of ‘to decide’ or ‘to determine’. With this in mind, you decide or determine what goals and outcomes you want. And if you adopt good habits and follow some or all of the 7 strategies above you will be well on your way to achieving them.

Happy New Year!

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