Learn by Creating Your Own Course

Get the most from books and podcasts by creating your own course of study.

Stever Robbins,
September 13, 2011
Episode #190

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Tip #3: Use exercises for applying and practicing the material.

After you've learned new material and reviewed old material, give yourself exercises. That’s your chance to practically apply what you’ve learned. You can do the exercise during your class time, or give it to yourself as homework. If you're working through the “Tame Your Technology” chapter of my book, Get-it-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More, your homework would be to run a weeklong technology audit, so you know whether you work better with an electronic or paper to-do list.

Tip #4: Get feedback on your progress.

Qualifying for a green belt or a yellow belt in martial arts is feedback that you've reached a certain skill level and are ready to move to a more advanced level. Get outside feedback on your progress. A study group is a great forum for trading feedback. Or you can have an outside expert join you for a meeting or two, to evaluate your work.

Sometimes you can test your progress yourself. If you're learning knot-tying, your homework is using this week's knots to brace the giant planters on your roof deck where you grow 6-foot-tall man-eating Audrey 2s. Test the knots by poking your Audrey 2 with a sharp stick. If the knots hold, you know you've done it right. If the knots don't hold … well, let's just call that motivation for next time.

Celebrate when you master a skill or hit major milestones. It's motivating to know you've made progress. You'll be amazed at the pride you feel when you get that green belt,or don't lose your other hand to Audrey 2.

Tip #5: Concentrate on vocabulary.

Often a skill has a specialized vocabulary. As you learn, make sure to jot down and remember special terms associated with it. If you're a sailor, you'll learn words like "jib," "tack," and "prow." Weird? Yes. But try not knowing these on a sailboat. You’ll be going nowhere….in circles..

What's tricky is when you're learning a subject that uses everyday words to mean something different. I saw the musical BARE: A Pop Opera and loved it. The program said "Book by Jon Hartmere." I wanted to read that book! So I went to my library, my bookstore, and Amazon.com. I searched for Jon Hartmere, but couldn't find the novel.

Turns out that in musical theater, "book" refers to the part of the script that isn't sung, aka,  the story. Oops. Yes, I'm sure I looked silly, but my quest taught me the specialized meaning of the term and now, I've written both a book-book, and I've co-written a musical theater "book." Viva la homework!

Now, Juanita, you're ready to get to work! Schedule a regular class time with a study group. Read a chapter for class, paying attention to vocabulary, and give yourself homework to apply the ideas in that chapter somewhere in your life. Get feedback on your progress and review each week's material the following week and a month later. And if you need something to serve at your study group, might I suggest deep fried vegetable chips from the roof deck garden? They taste just like chicken.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

This has been Stever Robbins. I give keynote speeches that are fun and interactive on how businesspeople can be more effective at reaching goals. If you want to learn more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com/speaking.

http://www.meetup.com - Meetup.com, a service for finding people to practice with.
http://www.craigslist.com - Generic classified ads for finding people to practice with.

Woman Studying image courtesy of Shutterstock