As the world eagerly severs ties with 2020, you might wonder whether to set a New Year’s resolution. After such a difficult year—for many reasons—a typical resolution might create too much pressure. It’s no secret New Year’s resolutions often go unfulfilled, resulting in the inevitable feeling of futility in setting goals in the first place.
If you’re wary of feeling let down this year, you’re not alone. In a new survey by Affirm, 55% of respondents said that the stress of 2020 has made traditional New Year’s resolutions a dated practice. Instead, every seven out of 10 respondents said they plan on focusing on learning life skills or practical goals for 2021.
If you’re also considering ditching a New Year’s resolution to prioritize a practical goal, a learning agenda can help reframe January goal-setting as positive and fulfilling.
What’s a learning agenda?
A learning agenda is a tool typically used to approach projects in professional settings by helping to identify knowledge gaps and finding ways to address them. It takes a vague resolution, like “Learn a new language,” and transforms it into an actionable and achievable written plan that fits your needs.
Learning agendas take a different approach. A strong personal learning agenda is specific and actionable. It also establishes a realistic and flexible plan as you learn or gain more information in the process. The agenda contains the following elements:
- Learning questions
- Learning activities
- Learning products
Writing out a learning agenda positions your goals through the lens of development. Approaching a goal as a learning experience—rather than a correction of your performance—can lead to greater success.
How to create your learning agenda
Unlike idealistically declaring a New Year’s resolution, creating a learning agenda takes a bit more thought. Here’s how to get started.
Learning questions (goals)
The first step is answering a set of strategic questions. When drafting this part of your learning agenda, ask the following:
- What is/are my goal(s)? Be specific. Instead of “Learn how to cook,” a more defined goal could be “Cook a lobster main course dinner for two.”
- What is my proficiency in this area? Assess your current skill set. If you aim to cook a lobster dinner, your answer might be, “I’m a novice cook and haven’t used seafood ingredients in the past, but I know how to fry an egg.”
- What are my natural talents/abilities that might help me learn this subject/skill? Determine what your strengths are and what tools can play to those strengths. For example, “I’m a strong baker so a baked lobster recipe might be an option,” or “I’m a fast visual learner so YouTube cooking tutorials can be helpful tools.”
- What are some challenges I might face in learning this subject/skill? Identifying hurdles in advance makes them less likely to derail your learning momentum later. For example, “I have no idea where to even get a lobster.”
Once you’ve written your learning questions, ensure they’re clear, specific, and actionable.
Learning activities (milestones)
The next part of the agenda is defining your learning activities—milestones indicating your progress. Drawing from your learning questions, write down several learning activities that support your goal.
Here are a few learning activities for the learning question, “How do I cook a lobster main course dinner for two?”:
- Enroll in a virtual cooking class
- Watch a weekly YouTube cooking series
- Practice chef knife skills on one meal per day
Make sure the activities fit your preferred learning style and your lifestyle. For example, don’t include “read a cooking blog” as a learning activity if you find cooking videos more engaging.
To keep from getting overwhelmed, you can also schedule check-ins and reasonable deadlines for doing activities. Take your current schedule into account and be flexible with your milestones if life gets in the way. A missed milestone doesn’t mean the end of your goal.
Learning products (tools)
Learning products are useful resources that might include apps, community groups, books, online courses, and even a friend or peer who’s knowledgeable in the subject matter. Based on your learning preference and access to these tools, identify various learning products that can enhance your activities.
Let’s say that you want to enroll in a virtual four-week cooking class, but it’s beyond your budget. You might turn to a friend who has experience cooking lobster and arrange a weekly Zoom tutorial. Using this resource regularly is a way to keep you accountable and your learning agenda on track.
Establishing the specific objectives, activities, and tools of a learning agenda puts you in a stronger position to achieve your goals in 2021.