A to Z of Soft Skills: C for Continued Learning
I know learning skills aren’t in the official list of soft skills or something people are trained on. But keeping in mind the rapidly changing times, this is definitely one of the key skills to develop. The world has changed rapidly in the recent years and the rate of change is unprecedented. There is a new update on the apps we use pretty much every week. From no cellphones to only cell phones in 10 years. From no whatsapp to mainly whatsapp in just about 3 years, there is so much new information to learn and process. Or decide if we need to even process it.
There is more information than we have the time or the resources to sort through and file in our minds. It is harder to keep up with everything that gets thrown into our consciousness. And to convert all that knowledge into wisdom – the hardest.
In today’s post we will look at why constant learning is a skill, look at a few important sources of learning and then tips on how to use them to make learning a routine.
Continued learning is a skill which involves:
– Making time to keep up
– Convert knowledge to wisdom
– Apply it when the need arises
So being judicious in the choice and sources of consuming knowledge and interpreting it is a skill of the new world we live in.
While the crazy number of options make our life difficult and distracted, if used right, the same thing can be a huge boon too! From words to images to videos, you have a whole range to choose on how you want to consume your information. Here is a just a sample list:
Google: A pretty obvious choice! From technical trouble shooting to kitchen conundrums, Google has been a saviour for me in so many situations. In fact, I sometimes wonder how I did I ever manage before Google. Making it a habit to look up anything you don’t know – the meaning of a word, a process, a trending hashtag – is a great habit to have. And mostly it takes about a couple of minutes to quickly look for such stuff and also has the blessings of the productivity guru, David Allen with his 2 minute rule.
Blogs: While Google search throws up all the sources for the topic, blogs are a great way to access information topic wise. You may want to follow only social media blogs or tech blogs from bloggers you like and trust. Subscribe to blogs and the posts will arrive right in your inbox and you can read them effortlessly on your phone.
YouTube: If reading is not your idea of consuming information, there are videos on every conceivable topic on YouTube. You could subscribe to channels to know when new videos are released. Videos also can be more engaging than plain text at times. Just remember to carry your headphones!
Ebooks: With smartphones literally being on us at all time, ebooks are a great source to carry along. I have realised that I get more reading done on the move than I realize. Instead of meandering on social media, switching over to my Kindle app has helped me finish quite a few books in transit.
Social media: Well! Social media platforms are not all evil. In fact, Twitter has been voted year after year as the leading platform for learning. From Twitter chats to Linkedin groups, interacting with like minded people can be a great source of learning. In fact, videos of Gary Vee and blogs of Neil Patel are quite high on people’s reading lists. Fresh and relevant content, week after week, from experts in their fields. Nothing else can replicate this kind of timely information.
Coursera: If you are looking at formally learning a new subject, Coursera has courses on every subject you can think of. And the courses take only a few weeks to finish. Earlier a free site, it has paid courses now. But given that the best professors from foreign universities create and run the courses, the value far outweighs the cost.
If you are thinking, “Duh! I know all this already! It’s making time which is the challenge!” I know that!! I have been there and completely empathise with you. I find myself swimming in the ocean of information ever so often and have to then find my way out to gain some perspective.
So here are a few my tips that should work:
1. Make time: I know you don’t have the time. Well! No one does! One has to make time for a lot of things in life. And this is one of them. Choose travel time, post lunch or at the end of the day. You might carve out some time when your kids leave for school. Or you may want to settle down to a nice read or a stimulating discussions before bed. It’s your choice and comfort. But making time is imperative in order to keep up with the times.
2. Use the smartphone: Phones are no longer devices to send messages and make calls. That’s probably the least we do on our phones. The apps on a smartphone is the key to a person’s personality! Thanks to a friend, I have recently graduated to even designing on Canva on my phone itself. It feels so liberating to be able to do so many things on my phone than wait to get to my laptop. Choose your ideal learning apps and install them.
3. Let go: I think this is also an important skill too – choose what is useful and let go of the rest. I can’t remember the number of times I have found myself sitting amidst a sea of open tabs on my laptop left for later reading. Or wanted to copy down the entire list of books one should read (for one reason or the other) But it never came down to it. After postponing it for days and weeks, I just had to cut down on my ambitions and stick to what was practically possible. I have given up looking at any reading lists since it only adds to my stress. It’s impossible to catch up with all that there is out there and one has to get realistic about how much we can ingest.
4. Learn on the move: Use travel time. Catch up with the day’s news, look at what your social media feed is upto, check if any new blog posts that have arrived in your inbox. I have gotten tons of reading done on my way to places.
5. Use Feedly – To make things easier, you can use apps like Feedly or Pocket. Add blogs of your choice on Feedly and access it once a few days to catch up with new posts. This can prevent the whole problem of blog subscriptions piling on your email. Pocket is another great app where you can send links you want to read later and can do it even offline.
6. Watch one video a day: This is just a suggestion. After I finished a few books on TED talks last year, I had a long list of videos mentioned in those books. Although I wanted to watch every video, I had to let go of quite a few because it wasn’t realistic. But it was easy to make time for the ones I did watch because I’d play one after dinner every night. It was also a nice way to relax at the end of the day and listen to some nice information. You could do the same.
7. Grab 15 min slots: If you can’t find extended periods of time to catch up on your reading/watching, you can look for gaps in your day. You can grab 15 minute slots, say post lunch or while waiting for a meeting to start. You’ll be surprised to see the amount of reading you can get done in such tine slots. If you have organised it well, it’ll take you only 15 minutes to browse through your twitter lists and find out what’s new. You could save useful links to catch up with later. But that’s one thing done in that slot.
There is information everywhere. The skill is in expertise of being able to navigate it to find the learning we want. I hope this post has helped you with some useful tips. You can find more tips in another version of this topic I wrote for Linkedin – A hundred ways to keep learning everyday.
Here is a longer list of learning tools from Jane Hart’s blog – Top tools for learning 2016
If you found this article useful, do share it on social media. As you can see, I’ll be writing about soft skills this whole month and share tips on how to improve them.