Your personal development is a priority. In a world of work that is changing fast, updating and enhancing your skillset is vital if you want to stay relevant in the job market. Gaining new skills can increase your ability to contribute and improve your value. Learning also keeps your thinking fresh, boosts self-esteem and can broaden your mind.
Knowing this is one thing, but how do you go about it? The key is not only dedicating time but also finding your motivation. Then you can structure your learning for the best effect. The following seven tips aim to help you implement learning strategies that work for you.
1. Set SMARTEST goals
Begin by setting SMARTEST goals for learning as this will help you focus on what is most important to you. SMARTEST stands for:
- Specific. What do you want to get from your learning experience?
- Measurable. How will you know that you have reached your goal?
- Achievable. Is your goal realistic? Don’t aim too high when you first start as there is a risk that you will feel deflated if your goal is not achieved.
- Realistic. How does your learning goal contribute to enhancing your life?
- Time-bound. How soon do you want to have achieved your goal?
- Educational. Define the particular skill or capability you wish to learn.
- Significant. What makes this learning goal important to you? Knowing this will motivate you into making it happen.
- Towards. Are you inspired to move towards this learning goal? Does it draw your interest and make you want to put in the effort? If not, it is unlikely that you will succeed.
Writing down your learning goals will clarify your thoughts and enable you to plan. With solid objectives established, you are also more likely to push on to achieve them. Then you can focus on executing your learning plan.
2. Visualise success
Setting SMARTEST goals has helped you to identify your learning objectives. Now you can consider how working on these will allow you to achieve other personal ambitions, e.g. gaining a promotion or improving your wellbeing. Try using visualisation techniques to create a powerful mental image of how learning will impact positively on your life. The best-selling author, Stephen Covey, said it well “You have to start with the end in mind”. Imagine what success will look like for you. Be specific. How will it enhance your life? Write down your responses as a reminder as these will motivate you to do the necessary work.
3. Foster a growth mindset
It is helpful to foster a growth mindset when pursuing new skills and knowledge. Having a growth mindset means believing that you can develop your abilities through hard work and perseverance. It is down to the effort you make to build new skills. Author of the best-seller book ‘Mindset’, Carol S. Dweck says “no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.” Expecting and welcoming feedback is essential. Acting upon it to make improvements is vital. Be pragmatic when faced with setbacks about the learning you can take from the experience. It is only natural to feel disappointment, so practice self-compassion. Then consider how you can build on what you have achieved so far.
4. Work with time
You don’t require large amounts of time to attain new skills. If you are focused, learning in shorter blocks of time can be just as effective. Build learning into your routine. Try booking recurring sessions in your schedule for personal development. You might mark this in your diary as ‘TfM’ meaning ‘Time for Me’. Consider starting with 30-minute blocks and vary this depending on how you wish to spend the time. For example, you might use ‘TfM’ to study, reflect or plan. Choose how you use this time. Treat it as you would any other important task by being prepared, present and focused on that task and nothing else.
5. Make learning a habit
Developing new habits take time, effort and the willingness to say ‘no’ to the things that distract you. It can be hard work, especially when others can use up your time with their issues and requests. Begin thinking of yourself as someone who is curious and enjoys learning new things. Can you remember a time when you successfully mastered a new skill? Hold on to that memory as it will encourage you to keep going when things get tough. Now set some boundaries. For example, set up a ‘non-negotiable’ time in your diary to watch an inspiring TED talk or read a chapter of a book. Tell those who habitually interrupt you that this time is essential for you. If you don’t take it seriously, they won’t either.
6. Choose a learning style that works for you
Do know how you learn best? There are many different approaches to learning, but the three most common methods are: analysing, doing and watching. Most people have a combination of learning styles. You can work out your ideal learning style by reflecting on your past experiences. Make a list of good ones and another list of bad ones. Identifying common strands can help you determine the learning environment that is best for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works for you.
7. Turn study into a social experience
Check out your trade or professional association for special interest groups and learning experiences. Get your name on the mailing list for in-person events and webinars. There are plenty of learning portals that you can explore, such as HubSpot Academy. Maybe check what’s available via the Open University or your local Adult Education Centre. Perhaps research relevant learning groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. How about talking to friends to find out if they are interested in forming a study group? Joining a community of like-minded people can help you stay on track as you are likely to encourage each other. If learning is enjoyable, then you are more likely to stick at it.
A new decade is upon us. Be curious about the world. Ask questions, read widely, extend your network and open your mind to new ideas. Learning is an attitude as much as a process. Consider how to create the life that you want rather than the one that is happening to you. Act now to invest in your mind by learning new skills that stretch and expand your horizons.