Ever since I graduated there hasn’t been a year that didn’t see me doing some course or another outside of work so I know first-hand how difficult it can be to stay motivated. It can be especially challenging during the winter months when all you want to do is snuggle up in your warm house. On the contrary it’s also hard during the summer when your friends are in the beer garden while you’re stuck in a classroom. But learning can’t be confined to spring and autumn so we have to find ways to keep ourselves motivated.
There are many motivation theories and you may be familiar with Hertzberg and Maslow but here we look at practical tips for surviving a qualification that spans a year or more either through attending learning sessions or via distance learning.
Tip 1: at the beginning, write down what it is you want to achieve
The act of writing down where you are now (in terms of academic level and experiences), where you want to be and how you will know you got there, will keep you focussed on your learning journey. You will have a goal to aim for and you’ll know when you’ve achieved it. When you have finished your course you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come.
Tip 2: week to week, keep a reflective learning journal
It’s great to reflect on learning because it highlights how you can apply what you have learned in a practical sense which can help motivate you week to week. I encourage learners to write a paragraph at the end of each learning experience that reflects: ‘how could I develop my knowledge and application of marketing as a result of this session?’ Answers often include ‘further reading’ and ‘use this theory at work to win more business’. The key is acting on these ideas.
Tip 3: break the course in to small digestible chunks
Often long term courses and qualifications are broken down into modules. If they are broken down already or even if they aren’t it can be helpful to think of the course in small chunks. For example, during week 5 of a 10 week module, it’s great to think about already being half way through.
Tip 4: see the course as a networking opportunity
Challenge yourself to learn one ‘extra’ thing each week outside of what you are formally learning. For example, talk to each course member about their jobs and see what you can learn from their experiences; try to find people that you have in common with class mates to build your professional network; find out about job opportunities at your colleague’s organisations. There will always be a wealth of information locked in your fellow learners and you should take opportunities to build your own knowledge and experience through your peers.
Tip 5: set yourself mini tests
Your course will inevitably require you to undertake activities and assignment questions but setting yourself mini tests too can help you stay motivated. This way you are in control of your learning and you’ll reap the benefits of self testing over the long term. One way of mini-testing is to challenge yourself to remember 50% of the information you learned the previous week. You can self test on the train, while queuing for a coffee, while on lunch, anywhere really…
Tip 6: blog about your experiences
It can be fun to blog so why not set one up to share what you’ve learned. It will help you consolidate your learning into one page. You could use twitter to publish bite-size bits of information.
Tip 7: triangulate your learning over coffee
Find a friend or mentor that is passionate about your subject and meet them for a coffee. ‘Teach’ them what you’ve learned- this will not only help you realise the progress you’ve made but it will spread marketing knowledge and help you remember your topic.
Tip 8: organise a social event with other learners
If you are using distance learning or you attend classroom based sessions it can be motivating to organise a social event with the other learners on your course to celebrate a landmark event. For example, you could go bowling after an exam, or go for a drink at the end of the qualification. Having something to look forward to as a group will bind you together and help you motivate each other.
Tip 9: write down what your name with your qualification after it
This sounds silly but writing down your name and the qualification that you will achieve can be really motivating!
Tip 10: think of the extra money/ kudos/ skills that the course will give you
If nothing else keeps you motivated, think of the money that you might be able to earn in a new job when you are qualified. Picture those pound signs every time you struggle to come to class or log on to your course.