Learning for Life – do you know how to do it?

I’m creating some training for a company that are putting together a graduate programme. One of the objectives of my session, is to help learners understand how important it is to develop skills in learning. We take it for granted that people know how to learn but some of us are used to being guided in some shape or form through learning. Without the structure of  school classes, university lectures, classroom training or an e-learning module do we always know how to learn and how to do this in the most effective way? And what is the most effective way anyway?

The topic of Lifelong Learning is not that new but it is a term that I have increasingly heard thrown about recently. It is something I have been giving more thought to myself. I recently transitioned from a structured work environment into self-employment and consulting and I have felt the need and pressure to understand more about a whole range of topics that were not so  high on my agenda before. It has forced me to have to think much more seriously about my approach to picking up new skills, what I need to learn, when I should do it, how much effort I should put in, the best way to develop that skill or understand that topic and importantly – how much time will it all take!

I’ve started that journey and have pulled together a list of tips that have helped me to get better at learning. Please share yours too.

  • Creating a learning list – When you think of something you need to learn more about whilst doing something else – jot it down immediately and come back to look at it later.
  • Dumping your thoughts – I’ve found free online tools such as Trello, Coggle and Drop Task so helpful as a space to dump thoughts first and then go back to put more structure to what I want to do.
  • Making time to learn – Dedicating time to just learn is critical. I have put time in my diary to learn a specific skill and I have also put time in my diary to look at my ‘skills I need to learn’ list and pick something out for an hour.
  • Creating a learning habit – I’m a digital junky so I did look for an app to help me me to cultivate a habit of learning and to remind me of my commitments. I really like Habit List. It is simple and that’s all I want.
  • Not de-railing yourself – When you are researching something, reading, learning online and you can come across an embedded link like the ones I’ve slipped in above, click on what you think will be relevant and if it takes you to a page that is relevant but not for right now, then see my first point above. Don’t get derailed.
  • Love paper – Despite keeping my sexy time for digital tools, I have a love affair with paper. Good old-fashioned scribbles and notes with a pen and paper can make it easy for you to list things that come into your head that you need to learn or understand more of.
  • Curiouser and curiouser – If I don’t know about something I make it my business to find out – or at least add it to my list of learning topics for that ‘free style learning’ hour in my diary. This is a habit I have tried to cultivate over the last two weeks so that I remain curious and it works. Now I am like an annoying child with my ‘but why’s.
  • Go to the movies – I love videos and sometimes when I am searching for information on something or need a ‘how to’, I purposefully type ‘video’ in my search engine. I find I pick up a lot of information and knowledge that way and it informs my decision on what to study next. The related videos that show up on the side in Youtube can also be helpful

and finally…

  • Freestyle it  – One of my old boyfriends was a terrible dancer and just not very cool when he moved to music. He jerked and didn’t flow, an arm or leg would flick out or around sporadically for no apparent reason and in total non-sympathy to the music. After three occasions of me moaning, he told me rather irritably ‘I’ll dance how I want to. I’m free-styling!’ Don’t feel you have to follow a structured and rigid learning path or finish every piece of learning resource you come across especially if for you, it is not useful or interesting.I find it difficult sometimes to read a whole blog or article (well done if you have got this far), watch a video without dragging the fast forward bar along or to stop myself from browsing off topic onto something else by clicking on an embedded link. I’ve occasionally just given myself over to free-styling through learning resources and that has worked really well.

This is for all the people out there that should dance how they want to!!