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  • Writer's pictureIan Gibbs

Why You Need A Personal Learning Strategy (Part 2 of 4)

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

(This blog is a continuation of Part 1)

In Part 2, we look at the first half of what makes up a PLS.

There are four parts to a Personal Learning Strategy. If we use the metaphor of a journey to describe the learning process, these steps are:

1. Establishing a destination

2. Planning the routes

3. Acquiring enough fuel

4. Knowing when you’ve arrived

Let’s start with the first one.

1. Establishing a destination

There are two traps to avoid regarding destinations. Lewis Carol said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you”. Not so with learning. If you don’t have it clear where you’re going, NO road will take you. So the first trap to avoid is being too vague about what you want to learn. You must identify clearly what exactly you want to be able to do. General statements cause problems.

‘I want to improve my people skills’ is vague and doesn’t give you anything to work with. If you’re familiar with SMART goals you’ll already understand what I mean.

‘I want to be able to have a 10 minute conversation with Brenda without getting into an argument’ is much better.

By identifying your destination, your probability of getting there is much higher.

The second trap is to avoid is choosing a destination which is too far away.

In a world of instant gratification, it’s tempting to want too much, too soon. Learning a language in 7 days is just not going to happen, regardless of what the book says. It’s like trying to run up to the top of the Empire States Building. It’s a huge challenge, well beyond the capability of most people.

So choose a realistic first stage to your journey. Running up two or three flights of stairs? That’s more reasonable. And once you’ve done that, you can give yourself a pat on the back and then try for another a few more. Like this, you could, eventually, make it to the top, floor by floor.

So if a 10 minute talk with Brenda is stretching it, try for 5, and work your way up.

When I started my podcasting, one of my first steps was, (using Squadcast) to record myself saying anything. No Interview. No polished dialogue. Just recording myself mumbling away was a useful and realistic first-stage destination.

Once you’ve chosen a good destination, your next job is to identify the routes.

2: Planning the routes

Notice the plural. They say there are many ways to skin a cat. I don’t know. Fortunately, I’ve never had reason to find out.

But I do know there are many ways to gain a new skill. Once you sit down and start to list them, you might be surprised at how many sources of learning (or resources if you prefer) are available to you, especially if you ask around. Examples could be:




Weekend retreats

Your professional network

YouTube Videos


Friends & Family

Play and experimentation




Online courses


Trial and error

Don’t just pick one. You need to approach your destination from various sides.

And don’t underestimate the learning potential of talking to people. When I was learning to podcast, I read and watched articles but what really hammered it home was when I spoke to one of my friends who had already published over 60 of his own podcasts.

I recommend choosing at least 3 source, one of which should be another human being. Books are great. Videos are better at showing how something is done. But there’s no substitute for discussing your newly acquired knowledge with someone who already knows how to do what you want to.

Once you’ve identified your sources, you can then add the where and when. Friday lunchtimes in the library? 10 minutes every morning at home? If you were following a Formal Learning program, these points would be set for you. You must set them for yourself. The advantage is you have total flexibility to pick the most convenient time and place. The disadvantage is that you must choose. Otherwise it’ll get put off until you have to acknowledge it’s never going to happen.

3: Fuel

There’s a big difference between knowing the path and walking it.

Once you’ve identified your PLS destination and planned your route, you need to move on to fuel, which comes in two forms: Motivation and Routine.

Motivation is all about how you get enthusiastic about your learning activities. Routine is about the regularity with which you do them. Without these, your progress will be slow and haphazard. The chances of you reaching your destination are low.

In fact, fuel is such a big part of your PLS that I’ll be giving it the attention it deserves in part 3.

See you there!

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