Have you ever found yourself with a bunch of purchased online courses, yet they remain unwatched, gathering digital dust? Or maybe it’s a stack of books, unread in the corner. If so, it’s time to put those to use for your personal growth!

Before diving into the how-to, let’s talk about why personal growth is important. It’s about learning new skills and empowering yourself. So, what areas of your life do you want to improve?

Once you’ve pinpointed the areas you want to get better at,, it’s time to set some goals. This is where most people would tell you to set SMART goals. On the surface, I “get” SMART goals, but they never work for me. I never stick to them. I always struggle with at least one of the letters per goal. 

This isn’t necessarily about goals though, and you probably already have set goals for this year, so let’s dig into how those untouched video courses and books can be put to work! To start, list out all your courses and books then note any that you’ve started but haven’t finished yet.

Next, compare your goals to your list. Find ones that align with your goals then decide which ones you want to work on, and remember, you have limited time. Map out a general idea of how much time you have each month, week, and day. Maybe you can read your book at lunch or watch a course in the morning before you get ready for work. Don’t go crazy and try to do too much! You will burn out. 

Now that you’ve got an overall plan, it’s time to… procrastinate!

Procrastination – the enemy of progress. We’ve all been there. Let’s tackle it head-on! I’ve got some tips to kick procrastination to the curb and get you moving.

  • Chunk it down – does the course have 17 different videos? Start with just one. Start with one chapter in your book.
  • Use a timer – sit down and watch or read for 25 minutes, then take a short break.
  • Stop distractions – turn off notifications, stay off social media, and find a quiet place to watch or read.
  • Reward yourself – when you finish a module, unit, or chapter,  however, it makes sense to break it up, and treat yourself to small rewards, like a walk, a coffee break, or watching an episode of your favorite show.

Now we gotta make the plan!

Create a study plan that suits your schedule. Make it manageable so you can be consistent.

  • Start with why: What do you hope to achieve by taking this course or reading this book? Write it down. 
  • Map out the course content: Familiarize yourself with the course structure, modules, and video lengths. For a book, look at the table of contents and review the chapter titles. This will give you a sense of the commitment needed and help you break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Schedule your sessions: Dedicate specific time slots for watching videos or reading, taking notes, completing assignments (if any), and reviewing material. Be realistic about your available time and energy levels, and factor in breaks to avoid burnout.
    • Some books have assignments at the end of chapters. I find it helps if I keep track of them in a notebook and work on them separately from reading. I keep reading even if I haven’t done the assignment. Sometimes assignments take a while to complete and I like to read through the book in about a week. And remember, not all assignments need to be done. You aren’t being graded. If they don’t apply to your goals, skip it!
  • Tailor your plan: Adapt the schedule and make adjustments as needed. I like to do this at the end of the month, what’s working, what’s not, and what do I need to change?

Watching passively won’t cut it.

You need to be engaged or you’ll find yourself re-reading the same paragraph seven times. Here are some techniques to keep you engaged, taking notes, and applying those concepts in real life.

  • Take notes, highlight key points, and summarize what you’ve learned after each video or chapter. This helps solidify your understanding and identify things you want to look into more.
  • Pause while watching or reading and reflect on it, ask yourself questions, and connect the information to your existing knowledge. You could create flashcards or mind maps to test your understanding.
  • Look for additional resources like textbooks, articles, or online forums to help your understanding. 

And don’t forget to track your progress.

Watching your progress is motivating. Keep tabs on your achievements and areas you want to improve. Celebrate those wins along the way!

  • Create a dedicated journal for your personal and learning goals. Regularly update it with your achievements, big or small. This not only serves as a tracker but also helps you reflect on your progress.
  • Develop a simple spreadsheet to track your progress. List your goals, and update regularly with milestones, completion dates, and any challenges faced. Use color coding to represent different achievements, making it easy to spot your successes and identify areas that need attention.
  • Set aside time each week or month for reflection. Review your goals, assess your efforts, and note any achievements or improvements. 

Congratulations, my fellow learners! You’ve got a plan to watch those untouched courses and read that stack of books! Consider them conquered.

Leave your favorite tips or tricks for watching courses or reading those books in the comments!


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.