Since Reverse Tide Learning is a resource for the self-learner, we wanted to give a few helpful tips in learning effectively. Remember that you’ll need to stay motivated since you won’t have teachers, tests, and grades forcing you into it. Even someone extremely disciplined will fall off track at some stage. But the trick is forcing yourself into a similar routine of dedicated study time and personal accountability. Here are a few of our own suggestions (plus some we borrowed from successful self-learners):

1 – Start with your resume.

The easiest way to work toward a goal is to visualize the final outcome. If you’re losing weight, you identify your target so you can track your progress. And even if you’re in a degree program, you can count backwards to determine how many credits you need per semester. We would recommend starting with your goal and getting detailed about it. What do you want your resume to say when you’re finished? Look at sites like LinkedIn or Indeed for jobs that appeal to you and note their job descriptions. Copy/paste all the relevant qualifications you’ll need so you can work toward them. That way your goal becomes more tangible than simply “learning ____”. Our learning paths are designed toward these job descriptions but you can tailor them even more toward your goal.

2 – Determine your ideal timeline.

Do you want to learn in 6 months? It might be aggressive but it’s doable if you’re working 70 hours a week on your learning. Maybe you want to add some life and social experiences to your learning and decide to push it to 18 months. Maybe you want to really make the most of our freelancing suggestions and turn it into a 3 year learning program. That’s one of the benefits of self-learning: It’s fully your choice. However, try to add a little detail and map that timeline with specific milestones along the way.

3 – Read the entire learning page before you begin.

This will help you with your timeline and milestones but will also put your full learning path into context. Know what you’re getting into. Each learning page is set up with the fundamentals, the detailed topic learning, the experiential learning, the job application process, and continuing education. Read through our notes and rationale for each topic and learning source. This is meant to help you with why you’re doing this. So use it wisely rather than skipping over it.

4 – Use apps as a resource.

There are hundreds of great apps that help you with productivity, calendars, collaboration, and document storage. Those links are to our freelance microsite resource guide where we talk about the ones we like most. Use them to help you stay on track and make the most of your learning.

5 – Reward/Accountability. 

Within your learning milestones, give yourself a reward when you accomplish them. Maybe it’s a week off of learning. Maybe you purchase a gift to yourself. This can be extremely rewarding. And then the opposite should also be true. If you miss a milestone, hold yourself accountable. Force yourself to work twice as many hours the next week. Or force yourself into a sacrifice. There are sites that help with goal tracking and even some that automate this reward/accountability (an automatically deducted charity donation if you don’t accomplish your goal for example). Use them wisely.

6 – Compare yourself.

Compare yourself to those learning through formal programs. They will be going twice as slow as you. They’ll be dealing with the stress of exams and grades. They’ll be paying exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege of all this. So even when it gets frustrating or lonely, just remember that you’re on a better path.

7 – Mix in social experiences.

The nice thing about self-learning is that you can do it from anywhere in the world. So go travel and study on the beach or in an exotic foreign country. Go on adventures. Make use of our social recommendations so you’re getting the most of your learning time. This should be a full learning program and not just all work, no play. Check out our article Experience Based Learning for some good ideas on this.

8 – Embrace the challenges and frustration.

There will be times when you struggle for motivation. When you don’t understand a concept. Or when the material is challenging you. Embrace all this! When you struggle and have to solve problems on your own, you’re learning a really critical professional skill. Problem solving and critical thinking. So many people lack these skills but you’re training yourself into doing both. When you get hired and get to work in teams or have resources to help you out, things will seem so easy. So just remember that when you’re challenged and frustrated.

9 – Pick something you enjoy.

If this feels like work and you dread your studies, consider if you’re studying the right subject. This doesn’t have the same commitment levels as formal learning so if you’re bored then switch to something better. We certainly encourage it. And maybe even consider trying a bunch of different subjects until something is enjoyable. It will make the whole experience more fun and make it go by faster.

10 – Don’t skimp on the experience.

For each subject, we have resources to help you do projects and get freelance experience. These are resume boosting items and probably the most important part of your learning. Don’t skip this or fly through it. We’d suggest spending 50% of your time getting experience. You’ll get a better job, make more money, and be more skilled at the time of doing it. Plus you can pay for the learning materials through your freelancing (basically making your education free). This is the competitive advantage you will have versus formal learning programs. Formal education doesn’t require experience. Ours strongly suggests it.


We hope this helps! If you have any other suggestions, let us know. Best of luck in becoming a top notch self-learner!