How to Start Learning Something New and Keep at It

February is about to end just like the last bit of motivation with which you made New Year Resolutions for 2018. But before you give up the resolve for a transformed body or a healthy lifestyle it is important that you re-think about another super important goal that might have slipped your mind. One that can make or break your career in the upcoming years, ‘Learning a New Skill’.

If you didn’t include Upskilling or Learning new things to your to-do list of the year it’s high time you gave it another thought. We discussed in our last blog why Upskilling is quintessential for every professional who is eyeing a promotion or career transition in 2018. The agenda of this post is to help you create a roadmap which will help you learn a new skill and practice its application in your personal or professional life.

The easiest thing in our noisy lives today is to get distracted. It could be an urgent report that you have to send by end of the day or a Facebook notification that leads you to waste 30 mins, surfing your timeline watching a cat sing Ed Sheeran’s lyrics. Finding the time to do something new and stay on track with it is next to impossible but with a right plan and great motivation you can ace this uphill task.

So here are a few simple steps you can follow to get your learning started.

  1. Start Prioritising

    Let’s face it there will never be a time when you will be less busy, or ‘relatively free’ and will have the liberty to sit down and learn a new skill. We are all juggling with multiple to-do lists, backlog work, and personal commitments to be fulfilled. The only way you can focus on anything is by giving it more importance compared to the other things you need to do at that moment. 

Prioritisation should be your mantra. Prioritise the work you are doing, basis its urgency or the deadlines and free up a time-slot for learning. It could be an hour while you are traveling to work, the extra 20 mins you can save from your lunch-break or a quiet half hour late at night. Whatever it is that can guarantee you a distraction/noise free slot within your day works. Make sure you do not line up any other task at this time and give undivided attention to learning.

2. Make a Plan

Once you have identified the time you are going to dedicate to learning a new skill it’s important to make a plan. Create goals and target for each stage and reward or penalize yourself as per the outcome. Make sure the learning time that you allocated at the beginning and the intensity of the skill you are planning to learn increase at every stage. This is known an progressive overloading. For example, if you allocated 30 mins as the learning time in week 1, it should increase to 45 mins in the next week and 60 mins at the subsequent one. Progressive overload improves the engagement and interest levels for any task.

3. Break it Down

Congratulations, if you followed the 2 steps mentioned above, for you have discovered the time to learn something new and also have a plan of action ready. The next thing you need to work-out are a few details to make this plan more exhaustive and avoid any monotony that can lead to you giving it up mid-way. One trick could be to break this plan into different activities that will ensure you don’t get bored and follow it through.

A good break-down of learning activities should include:

a) Research- make sure you do an intense research on the topic you are learning at least once a week to stay on top of the trends and the latest news of the respective industry.

b) Read read and read- Find the thought leaders, industry best-practices, books, white-papers or any source material which comprises the core-theoretical reading material for the skill you are learning. If you can’t find one, identify the right books and subscribe to relevant blogs that can give you this insight.

c) Focus on the basics- The most important step in this journey is to build a solid foundation of the skill, your best bet here would be taking up a part-time course, if that’s not feasible look up at the short term online courses and if possible find one that gives you access to an industry-mentor who can clear your doubts and give you feedback.

d) Practice as much as you can – as important as it is to learn a new skill you need to ensure that you put your learning into practice to make sure that you don’t forget the key takeaways. Find a way to take regular quizzes, assignments that can test your skills and let you know where you stand. You can also look for websites that provide free data-sets, practice assignments etc. that are industry-relevant and cater to different difficulty levels.

A good learning plan will allocate learning time for each of these steps and give due focus to all these activities.

4. Apply the Lessons

One crucial step that most of us tend to forget after we have finished learning something is applying the concepts/takeaways in our personal or professional life. Let’s say you took a class on Negotiation, try to apply the fundamentals of a good negotiation tactic while you are negotiating rates with a company vendor or shopping in a market. Also, make it a point that you attend webinars, workshops, and conferences on the subject matter. This will allow you to stay on top of latest industry trends and also help you build a network of valuable industry professionals.

And with that my friend you are all set to conquer the path of Learning New Skills. Bon Voyage!

 

The only resolution you should be making in 2017

Every New Year brings with it the hope of a new beginning in our lives and along with it, come the myriad of resolutions we make to ourselves. Research indicates that most of the resolutions made by people are towards fitness and weight loss. As a result, January becomes a windfall month for most gymnasiums and fitness studios while most of us don’t become any leaner or fitter with passing years the one thing that we can definitely achieve is being a better version of ourselves. To achieve that you don’t have to make tall promises to yourself just Make Learning a Habit.

Learning new things is simple, achievable and one of the most profitable investments you can make each year.

 

1. Learning is like weight-loss

train

Let me make an uncanny analogy here: Aspiring to becoming leaner is very similar to wanting to learn something new. Ultimately, you have to change something that’s core in your behaviour to have the desired results. Both these goals need focus, determination and lots of discipline. And lastly, just as in weight loss as in education, there are no low-hanging fruits or express results. Both take time to fructify, but once you go the distance, there is no looking back.

 

2. Why ‘Learning’ in 2017?

Why we need to learn in 2017

The right question here should be ‘Why Not’. There has never been a better time to learn and frankly speaking, with the changing dynamics of businesses and technology disruption impacting us, if we don’t make learning a habit in 2017 and onwards, our professional credentials would be questionable at best and irrelevant at worst. Learning new skills and upgrading one’s professional capabilities is no longer a matter of choice but a necessity to have a fruitful career. In today’s time and age, the half-life of knowledgehalf-life of knowledge is forever decreasing which means that one needs to keep learning always to stay professionally relevant. The new reality is that what you learn at 25, will not take you till 35.

 

3. What should I learn?

What should you learn

This is like standing by an ocean and trying to find the perfect starting point for your swim. What you can learn is limited only by your intellectual bandwidth and interest. For the sake of brevity, let us focus on what the professional in you needs to learn. Depending upon the industry you are in or aspire to be in, you need to understand the trends that are driving growth. If you are unclear about it, you should talk to your seniors from the industry and pick their brains. Pick an area that is affecting most companies in your space and eventually will impact everyone and build your skill sets in that. Professional competencies such as analytics, big data engineering, product management, information security, intellectual property, digital marketing etc. are high growth areas where most companies are struggling for ‘good’ talent. Finding a sweet spot like this and making yourself competent in it will ensure your career benefits from this talent shortage.

 

4. Where should I learn?

e-learning

Learning in 2017 will be easier than ever before. From blogs to YouTube or TED, from companies offering online learning to mobile apps, ‘lack of access’ cannot be your excuse to not learning. But having said that, having a plethora of options makes it overwhelming and confusing.

I come across some candidates who know what the skills they need to acquire but are not sure if they will be able to learn. I usually advise them to first test the waters by accessing some free content online. YouTube is usually a good source for this. See if you like what you are learning and are able to grasp it.

 

5. Why do we fail to learn online?

why we fail to learn

If you are the kind that does not suffer from such starting troubles, you will usually find your learning options to be either completely online courses or blended courses (online + occasional weekend classroom sessions). Given this spread, how do you decide which format to go for?

Completely online courses provide convenience since you don’t need to attend any classroom sessions. But, online learning has been plagued by abysmally low rates of completion. The main reason for this is that for most of us, we learn better when we learn in a classroom setting with peers and faculty, who we can talk to in person.

The flexibility of attending class room sessions over few weekends in a month gives you the advantage of mixing the best of two worlds – the flexibility of online learning and the learning effectiveness of classroom learning. In our blended analytics program, we have seen hundreds of candidates do our program after having done one or multiple online courses. When asked, the most common response we get is because they feel that their learning in the online programs was incomplete. Also, when it comes to acquiring hard skills such as analytics, big data or machine learning, it is important to focus on programs that are more exhaustive and immersive and don’t take a superficial approach by promising to teach something in a matter of some hours.

 

6. What will it take?

learning in 2017

Learning is for everyone. Amongst the thousands of candidates who take our programs every year, we see about 30% of them to be with in the 15-30 year experience bracket. While there is no age to imbibe the habit of learning, just like with all good habits, the sooner you do it, the better you are. Having said that, learning is hard work. Depending upon when was the last time you were in a class, you would need discipline, focus and perseverance to go the whole distance. Usually, we have seen that the first two months are the hardest but once you settle into a routine within the first sixty days, you will go one to achieve the results you desire. The advice that we give to all our learners is to start small. Begin by dedicating an hour every day for the first 2 weeks, then about 8-10 hours a week for the next thirty days. Small changes in your habit will ultimately lead to big gains in your learning and professional success.

On that note, in 2017, make a promise to yourself. To learn something new and to challenge your professional status quo. Make Learning a habit and build the career you’ve always wanted. Oh and as for fitness, try playing a sport – 5 days a week. It is fun and just as effective (or ineffective) 🙂