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The amount of learning available to us can be overwhelming. Especially when you need to do your day job on top of all this learning.
We know that high performers invest in their own learning. And, they also manage to get a lot done. These learners have maximized intentionality and efficiency to get the most out of the time they spend learning.
Here are three tips used by high performers to help you learn faster:
Look carefully at the descriptions of whatever learning opportunity you’re considering, and ask yourself: What will I be able to do differently as a result of this? We tend to get wooed by catchy titles and big-name speakers, but oftentimes, those don’t give the best learning ROI. To be clear, soft skills count. Your learning and development doesn’t need to sentence you to a life of excel training. Learning to be a better leader, a more clear communicator, and an expert time manager all matter. Not every development experience needs specific, buttoned-up learning goals, but when you’re pressed for time, look through the lens of skill improvement.
Taking notes with an eye to action (in addition to what you’re learning) makes application much more likely. After the program, course, or reading, choose 1-3 things you’re going to do (1 is the best) and schedule time for that. Learning is good, learning and applying is much better. For example, if you took a course on leadership and vowed to spend more time coaching, schedule the time. Every week. Without a place for our learning to ‘land,’ it likely falls into the (well-intended) back of our minds. Just another thing we should be doing… but aren’t.
Reflection time gives you the chance to process what was said at a deeper level. Yet, in the cadence of daily life, reflection time is the first thing to go. After all- you have stuff to do! I recently went to a four-day program for consultants. Everybody was rushing to catch the flight out, but I took the advice of a colleague who attended the previous year. She said, “if you can, stay over on the last night. Take the time to really think about how you’re going to apply these things, when you’ll apply them, what’s at stake if you get it right, and what you’ll cost yourself if you don’t do it.” That was contrary to my high-speed nature, but when I did it, I was shocked at how much more deeply I absorbed the content and how much more committed I was in applying it. It’s not always realistic to set aside a full day of reflection for each learning experience (this was a once-a-year chance for me). However, even a few minutes of reflection before racing to the next thing will maximize your investment.
Many years ago, ‘learning’ was a once-a-year event. You went to a conference or a training seminar for a few days, you got a workbook, and you devoted uninterrupted time to development. Now, learning (for better or worse) often happens in micro-moments. Whether it’s a quick search on how to do something on YouTube, skimming an article, or even taking a course, learning is much more integrated into our daily lives.
With a heightened level of intentionality, you can be a more efficient learner than ever before.