Like many people, your new normal is likely to plug in first thing in the morning. As message tones ping and chime, you check emails, text messages, and social media feeds for updates, both important and frivolous. Your daily demands swallow up the rest of your day, leaving little time to focus on becoming better. Yet, you still want to achieve mastery of a new subject (or at least make progress towards it), learn a new language, become a nutrition expert, hone a business skill. The good news is, when you apply one simple strategy, your path to mastery may be easier than you may think.
Learning is a triple threat
I believe in today’s knowledge economy, learning is the triple threat we all need for success, delivering benefits for your body, brain and business. Plus, the more we learn, the more we find meaningful connections in the world, which inspires creativity. (Have you ever noticed after you learn a new concept, you start to see it everywhere?) Knowledge really is a powerful thing. So why don’t we learn more?
Learning is good for your brain
As a child, you were probably excited to learn. There was likely something new and interesting to discover at every turn, whether in the classroom or during sports, music lessons or the many other extracurricular activities that kids enjoy. However, when we’re adults, life tends to become routine, and routine is bad for the brain. Very bad.
Routine not only limits our ability to learn, but also our ability to develop new skills. Breaking out of your routine can help. Plus, learning helps strengthen the connections between your brain cells and may even help prevent memory-draining diseases like Parkinson’s disease.
Learning is good for business
A quick Google search is all you need to see examples of successful (and busy) people who report that they carve out time in their daily or weekly schedules for deliberate learning. One approach is from Michael Simmons and his 5-hour rule in which he recommends you set aside five hours each week (or one hour each week day) to learn something new. Another approach is from Randall Stephenson, CEO of the American multi-national company AT&T. In a recent New York Times interview, Stephenson talks about how he encourages employees to spend five to 10 hours a week in online learning to ensure they keep pace with technology.
Finding the time to learn
You may feel you can’t squeeze any amount of deliberate learning into your already busy week, let alone five hours. If so, consider this: We all have little chunks of time throughout the day that we spend on activities that really don’t help us become better people. To be sure, technology gets a bad rap for stealing time none of us can afford to waste. Think about the amount of time you spend on social media. Is all that time productive, or can some of it be used for deliberate learning?
Let technology work for you
Technology isn’t all bad, it just depends on how you use it. In fact, I believe it can be one of your best tools for mastery. For example, before plugging in first thing in the morning, open an ebook about your subject and read for a few minutes. On your commute to work, listen to a podcast from a favorite business guru. At the gym, listen to an audiobook to polish a skill. Use moments like these for deliberate learning throughout your day. A few minutes here, a half-hour there, it all counts as the hours of deliberate learning that, step by step, one sequence after another, will move you closer to mastery.
Learning inspires creativity
My father’s collection of books reflected his insatiable curiosity about the world around him. I remember shelves packed with books spanning a wide range of subjects: agriculture, astronomy, eco-tourism, nutrition, organic farming, politics, religion, science, world peace and more. It was a motley collection gathered during his never-ending quest to seek answers. There was always room for one more book, one more glimpse into the broader connections in the world, one more opportunity to learn more and inspire creative ideas.
Like my father, I am always on the lookout for good books to help me learn more and better understand the world around me. When I find one, I am quick to share it with friends and colleagues, so we can discuss and debate the author’s merits.
Learn something new everyday
If you need more inspiration to take time out of your day to learn something new, consider this: When we learn, we become happier, more creative and more confident. That’s the kind of person I would like to be … and be around!
I firmly believe that a daily habit of deliberate learning is one of the best investments you can make to be healthier, grow a thriving business and enjoy a bright future. What better time to start than now?
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