Everyone already knows the importance of continuous learning for our careers and personal lives. But for most of us, the problem is that it’s not always easy to fit it into our busy schedules.
Between work and family, it’s already challenging to find the time for rest or leisure. How much more for learning something new? And with ideas like the 10,000 hour rule, which asserts the amount of time one needs to invest to learn and master something — who still has the time?
As it turned out, it’s not about the amount of time you spend, but rather how you spend it to develop your skills. It’s basically quantity > quality. So don’t worry if you don’t have the extra 10,000 hours to spare (who does anyway?). The key is learning in a deliberate way, so any time you spend will go a long way in your improvement.
Tips on how to learn when you’re a busy person
1. Decide what to learn
Technically, there’s no limit to the things one can learn. But your time and budget are limited, so you have to decide what to learn at a given time.
Focusing on a specific skill or area to improve at a time can help you in setting reasonably achievable goals for yourself. This way, you will be able to more or less determine the level of proficiency or progress that you want or need to achieve within your specified time frame.
But how to decide what to learn? It basically comes down to your needs and priorities. What are you interested in? What skill do you need to do your job better or level up your career? What do you need to know to start your own business? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself to decide what skill to learn next.
2. Start small
In any endeavor, it doesn’t hurt to aim high. But if you’re swamped with work and personal responsibilities, it would be too easy to become overwhelmed when learning something totally new.
One way to keep your motivation is to break down the skill into ‘mini skills’ that you can learn one at a time. This way you can set goals and timeline, and you can feel a more solid sense of progress at each step of the process.
3. Learn on the job
Little things can contribute to your ongoing skills development, especially if you do them everyday. Daily and even routine activities can be an opportunity to develop some skills. Writing and replying to emails can be an opportunity for you to improve your business writing skills. Sharing your ideas in a meeting and receiving customer calls are good practice for improving your communication skills. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone — you’re doing your job while improving your skills.
4. Know how to learn best
There are different ways to learn, and it’s often different for each person. It may also depend on the skill that you’re learning. For example, listening to top speakers may not be enough to help you improve your communication skills; you need to actually practice it. When learning coding or apps development, one of the best ways to learn is to actually build something.
Time and place also play a significant role in learning. There are people who prefer to learn at night when it’s quiet, while there are others who are more mentally stimulated by activity during the day. The learning environment can also make a difference. You may find it easier to concentrate listening to audio books during commute than when you’re constantly thinking of housework at home.
It all depends on your personal preference and situation, so it’s a great idea to find out what may be required for the specific skill that you’re trying to learn and how best to approach it.
5. Get help
You can literally learn almost anything online — from YouTube tutorials to diploma courses — and most of them are free. The best thing about it is that you’re learning from actual professors, experts, and professionals in the skill that you’re trying to learn. But if you’re looking for a more hands-on training and consultation, taking a training course or seminarr is the better option.
It’s also a good idea to look for someone within your workplace whom you can ask for help and feedback. It may be a skilled colleague, a senior team member, or even your superior. Let them know what you’re working on and ask for an honest appraisal of your skills. Just be ready to accept praise, instruction, and criticisms equally.
Once you’ve learned one skill, move on to the next. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella once said: “Don’t be a know-it-all; be a learn-it-all.” Don’t limit yourself to what you already know or how much time you have. Learning little by little is always much better than not learning at all.