Zig Ziglar once said, “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”

These days, however, there are so many exciting things to learn, from playing the piano to coding a website and mastering a new language to the perfect sourdough starter. But how do you even get started? After all, you might feel apprehensive about diving into something completely new. Thanks to this guide, you will be equipped with the tools and strategies to master any new skill you wish to learn.

Ignite the Spark: Finding Your Motivation

Before you start your learning journey, you must identify what drives your passion, aka your intrinsic motivation.

In a nutshell, intrinsic motivation, or the internal drive to learn for the pure pleasure of it, is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Knowing your “why” will motivate you when times get tough.

In some cases, however, extrinsic motivation, such as career advancement or a personal challenge, can ignite the fire. For example, you might find a new job by learning data analysis, or maybe you’ll master the guitar so you can play for your spouse again.

It does not matter whether an intrinsic reason or an extrinsic one is valid. In the end, it’s important to choose what resonates with you most.

Charting Your Course: Setting SMART Goals

Once you know your “why,” it’s time to determine your “what” and “how.” This translates into setting SMART goals.

  • Specific. Think of a programming language you want to learn instead of vaguely pledging to “learn to code.” For example, Python is good for data analysis, and JavaScript is good for web development.
  • Measurable. Keep track of your progress by establishing clear milestones. For instance, try to complete three basic coding tutorials online each week.
  • Attainable. Keep your expectations realistic. Learning an entire programming language in a month might seem overwhelming. To counter this, develop a series of achievable goals that build on each other.
  • Relevant. Align your goals with your overall motivation. Is learning to code your ticket to achieving new career opportunities, earning more money, or developing your problem-solving skills?
  • Time-bound. All goals should be given a timeframe. This will give you a sense of urgency and help you stay on track.

It’s important to remember that goals aren’t set in stone. You might find that your path shifts as you learn. You don’t have to abandon your goals entirely. However, you should adapt them accordingly.

Embrace the Power of Learning Styles

Each of us learns differently. Some people thrive in structured environments with clear instructions, while others thrive in hands-on learning environments. You should, therefore, identify what learning style you prefer to maximize your efficiency.

  • Visual learners. Use diagrams, charts, videos, and mind maps. There are various ways to learn, including online courses with rich visuals or taking detailed notes with colorful diagrams.
  • Auditory learners. You will learn best by listening to lectures, podcasts, and audiobooks. You might want to enroll in audio-based courses or join an online community.
  • Kinesthetic learners. Their motto is “Learn by doing.” In other words, it’s all about practice. As an example, find opportunities to apply your newly acquired skills in real-life situations by attending coding workshops or language exchange meetups.

Knowing your learning style lets you choose resources and techniques that resonate with you, making the learning process more effective and enjoyable.

Embark on Your Learning Journey: A Toolkit for Success

Having set your goals, found your preferred learning style, and ignited your motivation, it’s time to dive into the exciting world of skill acquisition. Make sure, however, that you retain that knowledge. To achieve that, incorporate these valuable learning strategies into your journey:

1. Choose the right resources.

It’s no secret that the internet is full of learning materials. First, you can access free and paid online courses, e-books, tutorials, and educational blogs. Additionally, you can use platforms such as:

Be sure to find reputable sources that offer clear explanations and positive reviews. Until you find resources that suit your learning style and budget, don’t hesitate to experiment with them.

2. Break it down: chunking and microlearning.

Learning a new skill can feel overwhelming. To combat this, use chunking. In other words, take complex information and break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. This makes learning less intimidating and helps you remember more.

Another powerful tool is microlearning. Instead of putting in long hours of studying, focus on shorter, focused bursts throughout the day. You can practice a new language on your commute or complete a coding tutorial during your lunch break. It is essential to be consistent in your learning, so aim for short bursts rather than sporadic long sessions.

3. Be multi-sensory.

Learners who employ a multi-sensory approach to learning are more likely to retain and understand what they learn. Here’s why it’s effective:

  • Engages more parts of the brain. A richer learning experience can be created by integrating multiple senses such as sight, hearing, touch, and movement. You gain a deeper understanding and a stronger memory by activating more brain areas.
  • Benefits a diverse group of learners. There is no one-size-fits-all method of learning. Learning through a multi-sensory approach caters to all types of learners, including visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. This approach ensures that everyone can connect with the material in their own way.
  • Learning through multiple senses improves memory and motivation. It is inherently more engaging. Transforming passive learning into active exploration makes it more enjoyable and memorable.

You can incorporate a multi-sensory approach into your learning by following these steps:

  • Visuals. Picture diagrams, charts, mind maps, and flashcards can be used alongside text to enhance your learning.
  • Auditory. Consider listening to lectures, podcasts, audiobooks, or music about the topic. To review your explanations, record yourself and play them back.
  • Kinesthetic. Don’t sit still. Consider using gestures, acting out scenarios, building models, or taking study breaks with physical activity.
  • Tactile. Use your hands to take notes, manipulate objects related to the subject, or build molecules with modeling clay to demonstrate concepts.

In the end, even if you have a dominant learning style, incorporating aspects from other learning styles can enhance your learning process.

4. Leverage the Pareto Principle.

The 80/20 rule — which is also known as the Pareto Principle, states that 20% of your efforts will result in 80% of your results. Academically, this means that fewer than 20% of your study time leads to most of your results. By leveraging the 80/20 rule, you can maximize your learning:

  • The material should be understood. By understanding its core idea, you can derive the rest.
  • Prioritizing key ideas. While reading the material is essential, make sure you focus most of your attention on the key points.
  • Identifying the most important tasks. You can organize your tasks and time more efficiently for a more effective study session.
  • Getting to know words commonly used. By learning the most commonly used words, you can boost your working vocabulary substantially.

A good example is Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Chef, in which he mentions that he was able to learn Japanese in three months, a feat that usually takes many years. By studying a sports manual, he learned the core words. Instead of learning several thousand kanji characters, he knew 214 traditional words or phrases.

As Ferriss points out, we use only a few words from a language’s complete vocabulary. To increase your working vocabulary, learn the commonly used words.

5. Be in control of your learning.

When you were a student, your teachers guided you throughout your learning journey. However, when you are self-directed, that’s not the case. Due to this, it may seem overwhelming at first.

Thankfully, there are three ways to take control of your learning:

Master the essentials (deconstruct and select).

Tim Ferriss also recommends the DiSSS method: deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes. In deconstruction, a skill is broken down into its fundamental elements.

Let’s take JavaScript as an example. Even though learning all the syntax might seem necessary, you can accomplish a lot with just a few basics (variables, operators, if/then rt, statements). As a result, a seemingly overwhelming task seems more manageable.

Basically, a skill’s building blocks are its essentials, so focus on them first.

Find a mentor.

When starting something new, it can be hard to determine what is crucial to learn. However, a mentor can bridge this gap.

Those who are successful tend to be generous and willing to help others. Prepare specific questions beforehand to ensure you get the most out of their time. A few conversation starters are listed below:

  • When you first learned this skill, what challenges did you face?
  • What aspects do you use regularly, and which are unnecessary?
  • How do experts in your field differ from others?

The key to progress is practice (stop learning, start doing).

Einstein believed that excessive reading hindered creativity. To put it another way, the most valuable learning occurs when it is applied. It is more effective to practice a skill than just reading or watching tutorials to improve it.

In his book “The Talent Code,” Daniel Coyle emphasizes the importance of doing rather than passively consuming information. You should spend at least two-thirds of your time learning through application.

Once you grasp the basics, practice what you’ve learned. In the beginning, this can be difficult. Ferriss suggests “Reversal”: analyzing the final product of a skill and then retracing your steps.

Benjamin Franklin used a similar technique to improve his writing. To refine his writing style, he studied and rewrote articles from “The Spectator.” As a result, he became one of the most influential writers in America.

6. Develop chameleon-like abilities.

One of the best ways to learn a new skill is to imitate the person you admire most. For instance, watch a video and learn from what someone else has done. Copy what you observe and participate in mimicry.

In addition to learning, mimicry has been shown to be an effective tool for creating and maintaining social relationships.

7. Increase the consequences.

If you do not learn the skill you desire, you should establish some sort of punishment. For example, if you fail to meet your goals, you can take a cold shower or donate to a charity you don’t like. Alternatively, you can place a monetary bet with a friend to get the fire going.

Keep in mind, though, that reward tends to be more motivating than punishment according to many studies.

8. Focused learning: the 3x3x3 approach.

Almost everyone desires to learn and grow, but converting that desire into practical skills requires a plan. The 3x3x3 method is a simple approach based on the science of effective learning.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important.

  • Three goals. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself. Identify three development goals you can achieve at once. As a result, you can concentrate your efforts and see real results.
  • Three months. Decide on a timeframe for achieving your goals. An appropriate starting point would be three months. There is enough time for new habits to be established, but not so much that you lose motivation.
  • Three people. Participate in your learning journey with others. Share your goals with three people. As well as providing support and feedback, they can also hold you accountable.

Why this works:

  • Clear focus. It is more likely that you will succeed if you have fewer goals.
  • Actionable steps. You must create a concrete action plan when you have a defined timeframe.
  • Support system. The more people you involve, the more likely you will stick with your goals and celebrate your progress.

Learning is a journey.

The 3x3x3 method is a framework rather than a rigid rule. Depending on your situation, you may have a different number of goals, a different timeframe, or a different number of people. To learn effectively, you must create a system that works for you.

Embrace lifelong learning.

By using the 3x3x3 approach, you can take charge of your professional development throughout your career and continuously improve. Start your learning journey by setting goals, finding your support system, and finding resources to help you.

9. Make use of nootropics.

These cognitive boosters, which are found in natural herbal forms and supplements, are known as brain enhancers. In fact, herbal nootropics have been used in Ayurvedic traditions since ancient times to help improve learning and memory.

More recently, however, in preparation for some rigorous cramming, many students swear by nootropics for their increased focus.

10. Strengthen your endurance.

Every week, practice for a few minutes each day and build up to longer sessions.

“Beginners usually spend only 15 to 30 minutes practicing because it’s tiring,” said Jeffrey A. Greene, McMichael Family Professor in the School of Education. “As you improve, practice time can increase. Experts generally can’t practice more than four or five hours daily. It’s just too tiring.”

11. Embrace the Journey: Mistakes are Your Stepping Stones

It is rare for the path to mastery to be linear. It’s not going to be easy, and there will be times when you feel like you aren’t getting it. However, mistakes are an inevitable part of learning.

Keep your head up, and don’t let them discourage you. Instead of looking at them as obstacles, consider them opportunities to grow. Take the time to analyze your errors, learn from them, and adjust your approach accordingly. This growth mindset will accelerate your path to mastery.

12. Celebrate your victories to fuel your passion.

Learning a new skill should be challenging and rewarding. So, celebrate your victories regardless of their size.

Are you finally getting the hang of a guitar chord? Treat yourself to a little treat, like a cappuccino. Are you now able to hold a basic conversation in Spanish? Maybe you can start planning your dream trip to Barcelona.

When you acknowledge your progress, you’ll ultimately remain motivated and excited to learn more.


What’s the most important factor for learning quickly?

It’s all about having a growth mindset. Work to improve your skills, and don’t give up if you experience setbacks.

How can I set myself up for success?

The short answer? Set clear goals.

How will this new skill help you achieve your goals? Step by step, break down large goals into smaller, more manageable ones.

Should I just stick to one learning method?

Definitely, don’t stick to just one method!

Take a multi-sensory approach. For solid learning, combine visual aids, audio, kinesthetic activities, and even tactile experiences.

How can I learn from others?

Consider finding a mentor or joining a learning group.  You can also get feedback from others and learn from their experiences.

How important is practice?

This is crucial!

However, you should practice deliberately. To avoid rote memorization, focus on the areas that are most challenging to you.

Image Credit: Pavel Danilyuk; Pexels