Have you ever been inspired to learn a new language, but all the courses are half way through the semester and you’d have to wait until the autumn? Or have you thought about practicing Yoga, but you have the flexibility of a tree trunk and feel embarrassed to work out in front of people?
Luckily there are tons of things you can learn from the comfort of your home! You can search for tutorial videos from Youtube, sign up for courses at Coursera, and many teachers provide Skype lessons for remote learning. You can also download Duolingo on your phone for learning languages, Down Dog for learning Yoga and of course Yousician for learning to play instruments and sing.
Learning at home has many advantages, but also some sneaky pitfalls. The most common of these is getting distracted by unfinished chores at home or by members of the family seeking attention. Let’s have a look at five ways to make sure that you can stay focused when you work at home, and that you can succeed in reaching your goals.
1. Set Up a Workspace
The first step is to make sure that you have everything you need, for example books and stationary. If your goal is to learn to play the guitar, make sure you have some extra guitar picks and strings.
After this, create a designated workspace in your home, for example on the kitchen table or in a music corner. This helps you in building a routine, and you’ll have everything you need within arm’s reach. Also it helps if you keep your workspace organised, so you won’t get so easily distracted.
2. Make a Schedule
This is probably the most important key to successful home learning. Set specific learning times on your calendar, and let your family know not to disturb you when you practice. If possible, place the session to the part of the day when your brain is at its peak and you’re most productive.
Try to set realistic expectations for how much time you can use. Often short sessions can be more productive, as during long sessions it’s easier to zone out, get frustrated or miss important information.
It takes around three weeks to build a habit and it’s often recommended that you commit to one month at first. It may also be good not to make dramatic changes to your daily routines in the beginning. You can start with 20 minutes every day and then slowly make your sessions longer as you’re building a routine. There are also many great apps for maintaining habits that you can try out, for example Habit Bull.
Our ability to multitask has been studied a lot, and the results are pretty unanimous. Quickly switching from one task to another has a significant negative impact on productivity and memory.
So, as you’re starting a learning session, make an agreement with yourself to focus solely on the thing you’re trying to learn. Turn off any distracting devices like your TV, close social media apps and block notifications from all messengers like WhatsApp.
One great way to improve your focus is by keeping a learning diary. I recommend buying a notebook and writing by hand, instead of taking notes with your computer. This helps you memorise things better and you’re not as likely to get distracted by any other features of your computer. I recommend trying out the bullet journal system as a way to organise your notes. I’ve used it a lot and found it extremely efficient.
As you’re starting a session, write down what your goals are for that session. For example, if you’re learning Spanish your goal could be to learn 10 new words in the next hour. During your session you can make notes of the key learnings, and in the end write down what you could learn next time. This way, you’ll always have an idea of how to begin your session and you’re less likely to procrastinate.
4. Make It Social
Learning is much more fun when you’re doing it with friends. They can help you if you get stuck or frustrated, and every little win feels more rewarding when you can share them with your friends
Ask around if some of your friends are interested in learning the same thing, and you can also find new friends through social media. For example, Yousician has many Facebook groups where people share their experiences and ask for advice. It may also be useful to find out if any of your friends are already experienced in whatever you’re studying.
5. Take Breaks
Once we get really excited about a new thing, it’s really common to study for long periods of time without taking any breaks. This may cause your brain to get tired, your mind to keep drifting off, or you may find yourself getting frustrated. Marathon sessions are also not good for maintaining a habit.
I really recommend using the Pomodoro system, which encourages having five minute breaks every 25 minutes. This way, you’ll stay more focused and you won’t get exhausted during your practice sessions. There are many great apps dedicated to this, but you can also just use the timer on your phone.
In general, be kind to yourself. If you’re stuck learning a song, it’s ok to sleep on it and try again tomorrow. Also, remember to reward yourself for success. When you reach a learning goal, you can give yourself a little treat.