How to Get Stuff Done as a Self-Directed Learner

I’m super excited to announce that Launchpad, my 19-day “virtual workshop” about self-directed goal-setting and productivity, is now open for on-demand registration!

Those of you who know me (or my podcasts) know that I’m fascinated by the motivational challenges presented by homeschooling, unschooling, attending a free school, choosing to educate yourself without college, and other situations where self-directed learning is required.

As Ken Danford of North Star once told me,

Living life without school is not the easy way out. It’s a lot like self-employment. It’s a great way to live, but it’s not for everyone. When self-directed learning gets hard, some teens feel like adults who say, ‘Can I just have my 40-hour per week job back?’

As a long-time self-employed person and self-directed learner, I’ve struggled with these challenges, which has led me to a lot of research and personal experimentation. (Anyone remember when I wagered $1000 against myself in order to finish a big project by a certain date, and if I failed, the money would have gone to the Super PAC supporting Donald Trump? That certainly motivated me.)

To build Launchpad, I reviewed and condensed all my favorite concepts and practical tools into an easily digestible, step-by-step workshop that takes place over 3 weeks.

In the first week, you begin by brainstorming lots of ideas for one little goal that you might accomplish over the course of a few weeks. Then you narrow down your ideas, get feedback on them, and choose one. The idea is to make a super-well-informed and thoughtful decision about how to focus your time and energy, choosing a manageable goal to which you can really consent and commit.

In the second week, you get down to work, moving a little closer to your goal each day. Along the way I introduce my favorite productivity concepts, including “deep work” versus “shallow work”, tools for avoiding distraction, and the five layers of procrastination. Each day is a new lesson paired with a personal work session.

In the third week, you wrap up your current goal and then start the whole process over again, taking a few concrete steps toward starting another, bigger goal: one that you’ll continue after the workshop ends; the idea is to leave Launchpad with a burst of motivated energy and a clear direction about your next project / goal / intention. We also dissect the notion of perfectionism—and why it is poisonous.

Something I love about this workshop is the Instagram sharing. Each participant is encouraged to share the results of their daily challenge with an Instagram post tagged with #UAlaunchpad. This means that you can see what other participants have done (and are currently doing), comment on their work, and receive comments on your own work. #UAlaunchpad already has hundreds of posts from our September 2017 pilot workshop—I look forward to seeing that number grow into the thousands! While most of the work is solo, the Instagram aspect gives the workshop a nice feeling of community: “you’re not in this alone.”

I built Launchpad for ages 14-21, but it can be taken by self-directed learners of any age. Parents/guardians of participants get to follow the workshop for free, and even participate if they want.

Ultimately, this workshop is about making the most of your freedom as a self-directed learner: taking advantage of the precious opportunity to design your own life instead of letting someone else doing it for you. Navigating this freedom is tricky, and it’s not a balance that’s automatically achieved when you give yourself the label of “unschooler” (or whatever else)—it takes practice, experimentation, struggle, and some good ideas from those who have been there before. That’s what I’m offering.

I appreciate my friend Margie Sanderson for helping me edit the Launchpad emails and for serving as the community manager of the pilot workshop. Margie will hopefully return to run another “live” version of Launchpad—where a big group of young people do the workshop at the exact same time, enjoying Margie’s daily support—but for now, you can access the solo version of the workshop for $100 (which is $50 less than the “live” version).

Sign up and begin anytime, right here.



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