With January 2019 officially in the history books, many of us are likely contemplating the New Year’s resolutions we made just a few weeks ago. Whether you aimed to go to the gym seven days a week, get your finances in order, or limit your social media use, there’s a strong statistical likelihood that your earnestly-made resolutions are already looking a little…frayed.

But help is here! When it comes to keeping people focused on building their skills, maintaining focus, and seeing things through to completion, we’d humbly suggest we know a couple things. So here are our tips for creating learning resolutions you’ll actually keep.

Computer and notebook work

Be clear on your goals

It’s a great instinct to want to be audacious and learn something new. Setting yourself a challenging goal and achieving it is what Udacity is all about. But it’s important to frame ambitious goals properly—you need to think about your motivation to achieve the goal, and you should be clear on the steps you must take to reach it.

The motivation behind your goal is important because if you’ll have to stay up late or give up time with friends to learn new things, it’s easier to do so when you can remind yourself you have a compelling reason.

  • Be specific. For example, don’t just target a pay rise, target a specific figure and be clear on why you want it—whether that’s to have the cash to move out of your shared house, or the ability to take your children on a dream vacation.

Identifying your motivation also helps you be specific on how you’ll actually reach your goal. A vague idea that you’d like to build your skills won’t provide the same direction as, say, aiming to learn JavaScript, CSS, and Python, landing a new job as a web developer, and increasing your salary by 50 percent. When you’re specific, you can:

  • Start breaking your plan down into measurable, realistic goals.
  • Set yourself timeframes to achieve these smaller goals, so you’ll always feel like you’re making progress and regularly hitting key milestones along the way.  

Make studying a habit

The first thing many of us will do when we set about learning something new is to make a schedule. This is a great first step, but it’s important your schedule doesn’t become a forgotten piece of wall art that is never referred to again. You need to make studying a habit—a predictable, essential part of your day. In the same way that you might buy coffee each morning on your walk into work, you need to make your study schedule a routine of your day:

  • Aim to study at the same time each day and at the same cadence each week.
  • Then, build out your routine—start by making sure you have a physical space where you can go to, where you can focus and concentrate on work.
  • Foster the idea that studying isn’t a task you have to check off, but simply what you do habitually during this time.

Data Analyst Nanodegree program graduate, Anna Suszka, told us having a routine was crucial for her success in completing her studies while raising two young children.

“I think that I only made so much progress by having a really strict routine. Sometimes, I would be breastfeeding my daughter and, with my free hand, trying to do a few lines of code. Otherwise, I would work in the evenings for a few hours when my toddler had gone to bed. Because my baby slept so badly, when it was my turn to settle her down, I’d often listen to courses and do data exercises while trying to get her back to sleep!”

Enlist support

Studying can sometimes feel like a lonely pursuit. You might be a parent, getting in a few hours of study each night after your kids are in bed. Or you could be a professional working long hours, who has to get up before dawn to make time to learn something new. Whatever your personal situation, it’s important to remember you aren’t alone—you can seek out the support of your networks when you need it.

Every Nanodegree program student, for example, has access to a network of fellow students studying the same program, as well as mentors, instructors, and coaches in the virtual classroom. It means students can get answers and advice, while also networking and socializing with fellow learners.

And friends and family can be a great source of moral support and practical help when you’re focused on your studies. Kimberly McCaffrey, for example, found that her family went above and beyond when she studied her Nanodegree program.

“The kids have all been really behind me. They’ve totally understood that mom was trying something new, that learning to code is what she’s doing now. So they did laundry. They would make lunch. It was very heartwarming to know they stood behind me, and that they understood how important it was to me.”

Be forgiving of yourself

So you’ve enrolled in a program, made a schedule, and set up your workspace. You’ve stuck rigidly to your study plan for an entire week, and you’re feeling pretty good about things. Then disaster! Work runs late, your commute was terrible, and there just isn’t time left to spend on your studies. What do you do?

Well, what you shouldn’t do is abandon all hope. It’s important to remember that things won’t always go according to plan and that an occasional off-day doesn’t make your goals out of reach. If the start of a study session is delayed, don’t simply write it off. Even 20 minutes of concentrated study time is still some study time that will get you closer to your goal. And if you do have to skip a whole day of study, don’t allow it to throw off your week. Begin your next study session with the same dedication and focus you’ve give every other, and keep working towards the goal you set yourself. Make your mantra “just keep learning!”

Remember, resolutions don’t have to be made on January 1. You can make a resolution to learn something new and change your career right now. Think about what interests you, consider the roles you’d like to work in, then take a look at our Nanodegree programs and start exploring how to build your skills.