How to Start Learning Something New and Keep at It

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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!