The Best Methods to Make Time to Learn

Learning is arguably the most valuable skill. Futurist Heather McGowan argues that the pace of tech and demographic change means that we must to learn – as well as unlearn – at a phenomenal pace. For me, a lack of time, is the biggest obstacle to learning. It’s the same barrier for many people where I work (and yours as well). Yet, the science is clear that we must learn more than ever previously in history. Here are several methods to create time to learn so you can be a thought leader, develop skills, and establish credibility for leading the work that needs to be done in your community.

Find motivation

Learning is a learned behaviour. We can all learn. Begin making time to learn by starting with a subject – any subject – that “lights you up” and ignites your purpose. If the intrinsic motivation to learn about new things is elusive then become practical. About 1 year prior to today, I needed to re-caulk something, so I watched a YouTube video, and then attempted what I learned. My colleague Derek the mail clerk discovered the motivation to learn how to use MailChimp, in part, due to his zest for embedding coaching in the company’s culture, which means we must re-imagine our methods of sharing info. So he took a course on the subject. Think of needs you can deal with through learning new info and tap into the motivation to learn!

What motivates you to learn new things?

Start small

The thought of learning to obtain a diploma, degree or certificate is thrilling, but can also be overwhelming. I can’t imagine finding room for a Masters program in my life at this time, but I can imagine listening to an audio book, watching a vlog series via YouTube about co-operatives, and taking a few interesting massive open online courses (MOOCS) on social impact. The greatest change agents begin small and scale-up their studies, according to Forbes’s Chunka Mui: “rather than jumping on the bandwagon for one potentially big product, they take on an idea via smaller bite-sized pieces… They defer important choices and wait until they possess real data.”

Envision the way you learn in a similar way. Rather than wait for a Masters or Diploma program to next semester, pursue a short online course to meet a specific need and tested your understand on a bite-sized project. Small, simple and fast.

What’s a simple topic that you can learn in the span of 10 min. or less?

Create buy-in

Regardless of how easy or small you make learning, it will impact people. One of the biggest risks to garnering your learning abilities and producing a culture of learning around you is the perception that investing in learning reduces what you’re making or the value you’re already contributing. 2 hours of LinkedIn Learning means 2 hours not researching, analyzing or doing another task. Pursuing a Masters degree program means that you will have less time to spend with your family. The opinions of stakeholders’ will impact your process of learning, so you’d better know how to engage them well.

HBR’s Rachael O’Meara recommends that you create a statement of vision so that you can present a clear answer to this important question: “who will I become as a result of this investment of my time and resources?” A clear and well-thought-out answer to that question has the power to inspire your boss or family members as well as probably motivate you to get started, too!

Who needs to learn more about the subject that you’re studying? How will you explain what you learned to them? When do you plan to learn the subject and then explain the details of what you learned to them?

Make time

As a busy, up-and-coming data scientist who manages projects for a hospital, I know how difficult it can be to block time for studying – like 10-20% of our time. This task of blocking time is necessary and will prepare me for the next, next project that is a big deal and will compel people to be more productive and efficient with my time. There will be people, though, who do not share my perspective, but I don’t let that deter me. What this means in your life is that the most significant thing to do is make at least some time for learning – begin with time blocks of 30-to-90 minutes each week for several weeks and see how it goes.

Time blocks, claims Fast Company’s Gwen Moran, are more powerful than using a to-do list since they make you put what you need to do in the right place for an appropriate amount of time:

Time-blocking basically organizes your life into a set of slots of time. Instead of making a list of tasks that take as long as necessary, with a time-blocked approach, each of these time periods is devoted to a task or tasks. It immediately lets you see where you’re being unrealistic about your time and keep yourself focused on what you’re supposed to be doing.

Also realize that you can learn so much through every day tasks, but only if you take a little bit of time to reflect on the experience – so carve out time, even if it’s two minutes, to turn your work into learning experiences every day.

How will you create learning time blocks in your schedule?

Find space

The space in which we work causes for us to have habits. When I stand by the desk in my office, then I think less about deep thinking and learning experiences. Instead, I am more focused on emails, meetings, coaching team mates, and plans for projects. Switching your environment can change your viewpoint and broaden your mind in terms of informal and formal learning, to things such as mobile-accessible courses or talking to members about what they’d want to learn from their co-operative. Where you learn should be beautiful, so check out my article about Kilowatt, a co-working space, and get inspired about finding or creating the right environment for you to learn.

Where will you do your best learning?

Be disciplined

Following through with any process, especially formal learning, can be a challenge for people. Many employees do not complete their learning experiences due to the fact that they aren’t fun, aren’t relevant and furthermore nobody is holding those employees accountable to complete them. You will need to possess unwavering self-discipline (or something approaching it) to finish your learning objectives. One of the most challenging obstacles to completing anything, according to Lifehack’s Max Weigand, is the path of least resistance: “If you choose what is fun and easy over what is necessary, you will never reach the levels of success and happiness you are capable of achieving in your life.”

Find the right balance between what is fun – because learning should be fun – and what will give you the most lift in your work life.

What habits do you need to create in order to complete this learning path?

Show Share the value

There is a sayings that we don’t learn from experiences, but we do learn from reflecting on them. The first person to whom you should demonstrate the value gained from your learning is yourself. An easy way to accomplish this goal is from journaling about the things that you learned. You should also demonstrate rather quickly to your manager the ways in which you apply what you learned. Google activates a network of employees called “g2g” (Googler-to-Googler) to share learnings:

For employees of Google, 80% of all followed trainings are put through an employee-to-employee network program known as “g2g” (Googler-to-Googler). This network is a volunteer network designed to give over 6,000 Google employees a dedicated portion of time to help peers grow and learn from experiences. Volunteers — known within the system as “g2g’ers” — can engage in an array of different ways, i.e. teaching courses, through one-on-one mentoring, and making materials from which to learn. The g2gers come from each department of the company.

One of the most effective methods by which to embed information and to become unconsciously skilled is to show other people the way to do something. Think about showing value by taking a colleague on the same learning journey with you.

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