Develop a learning habit in 2020 and set yourself up for success
Learning is hard. It’s filled with long, dry books and jargon-filled journals. It needs time, effort, endless repetition and hours of dedication.
It’s not the most enjoyable way to spend your time after a full day of work.
Anyway, you did your time. You went to school, got that qualification, passed all the tests and paid your dues. You keep up with industry news and stay informed about what’s going on in the world around you.
You just don’t have the time or energy to take more on. Your inbox is always full, your clients need attention and there’s actual, practical work to do. This isn’t the time to sit with your head stuck in a book, improving yourself.
You are busy, all the time
Even when you are physically away from the office, its presence lingers. You are never more than a phone call, IM or email away. Days off aren’t sacred and it’s easy to slip into “just a little more work” mode after dinner.
In the rare time that you are free, you crave novelty. Fun. Enjoyment. A chance to relax and see the people that matter to you.
You really want to make the time to learn but the last thing you can afford to do right now is add another commitment to a packed schedule.
Business theorist Arie de Geus famously said: “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
To remain on top, we need to learn continuously. But, how do we reconcile that need with our limited time?
Make learning a habit, not an effort.
To relieve the pressure and increase the odds for success, create a long term sustainable habit that doesn’t feel like a chore.
Because, if you don’t enjoy something and it’s not essential to your immediate well being, you aren’t going to do it.
So, let’s take a look at some practical, simple steps you can take straight away to develop a strategic learning habit that will help you gain a competitive edge while having fun.
Start with tiny changes
Big goals feel glamorous. They have substance and circumstance.
What makes you feel more accomplished? Saying, “I’m going to read 1 new book every week” or “I’ve committed to reading for 5 minutes after I brush my teeth every night.”
The real difference between the two is that the first will lead to failure and the second, to success.
Bear with me.
Behavioral scientist BJ Fogg, posited the theory of the tiny habit. He argued that anchoring a very small new behavior to a pre-existing, second nature behavior like brushing your teeth, works as a low effort way to create a new habit.
Tying the new habit you want to form to something you already do regularly, eliminates the need for setting reminders and actively remembering. Fogg recommends that we start off super small.
Let’s say you want to learn how to use a new workflow software that will increase your productivity but you don’t have the block of time time to sit down and commit. Attach the behavior to something you do every day. So, if every morning around 11, you go and make a cup of coffee link the new habit to it.
When you get back to your desk, open up the software and just look at it for 30 seconds. Then, go on with your day. Do this every time you get coffee for a week. This lays the groundwork.
Next week, up your time. Grab your coffee then spend 2 minutes reading about the software or playing around it. As the habit solidifies, you can add more time until it becomes second nature.
Coffee. Sit at desk. Learn something new about software. Continue with day.
The little wins feel silly. We love big, glorious wins.
But, all great successes are built on the foundation of showing up consistently. That’s how you got to where you are and that’s how you’ll keep rising to new heights.
The road to your victory is made of small, seemingly insignificant steps. Take the first one.
Set Specific Goals
Sweeping resolutions and nebulous goals leave you feeling drained and directionless.
Making them is great, but sooner or later, once the excitement has worn off, you realize that it’s dark, you haven’t got a map and you’ve been walking around in circles for the last five hours.
To succeed, set S.M.A.R.T. goals and use tiny habits anchored in everyday habits to help you meet them.
Let your natural curiosity guide you
What interests you? What makes you giddy with joy and excitement? What makes time fly by?
Use your natural interests and passions to drive your hunger for knowledge.
How do you like learning?
We all process information in slightly different ways. Find what works best for you. Some people love physically writing notes down on paper or creating flash cards. Others do best watching short videos while drinking tea. Or using interactive, game based learning.
What’s important here is that you acquire new knowledge- the how is up to you. If it works for you, do it. Even if your ideal way of learning is hopping on one leg while reading articles on your iPad.
Find your driving force
When you are really excited about something, your energy is through the roof. It feels as if nothing can stop you.
But, when you don’t want to do something the mountain looks so high, so impenetrable, it’s hard to even imagine climbing it.
That’s because when we want to do something, we focus on the positive aspects and they drive us forward. When we don’t want to do something, we fixate on the negative.
If that happens, shift your focus.
How would learning this help you? How is it going to improve your life? How will it make you more competitive and help you get a better position?
What are the concrete benefits this new skill will provide you with?
Visualize the future. How will learning improve your life six months from now? A year from now?
We don’t build habits to change today. We develop them, to influence tomorrow.
Adopting a new company-wide process isn’t going to revolutionize your business straight away. It may cause disruption and discomfort for a while, as everyone embraces the new way of things.
Nurture the habit
Habits, like everything in your life, need to be nurtured.
But, by starting small, setting smart goals, fostering your curiosity and visualizing your reasons for embracing change you are developing a powerful habit for learning.
A habit that will become an integral part of you much faster that you realize.
A habit, that will keep you sharp, competitive and adaptable in a rapidly changing economy.
As we near the end of 2019, it’s time to reflect on the tiny habits we can adopt to make 2020 a year to remember. A year where you commit to pushing the boundaries of the possible and strive to innovate and create amazing things.
Our commitment to you is to keep producing great, actionable content that helps you get there! Start the year off right and sign up to our newsletter for regular content updates and tips to make 2020 the most productive year yet.