Learning is a mindset. How quick or easy you learn something is based on your willingness to learn it, the environment in how you learn it, the time dedicated to let it sink in, and the practice you afford the thing you want to learn. Finding the time is one of the most difficult aspects of learning something new, when you have so much else going on in a world of constant distraction. But this comes back to your willingness to learn it. How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to something.
It could be a new piece of software you need for your job, a new method of performing something etc. For me, most of the time, it’s to further develop a skill I have already have, to branch out. What I’ve begun to understand with learning and how to learn anything quicker is 3 parts; A dedicated time to learn, limit your distractions, put into practice what you have just learned.
Putting these into practice;
Create a bank of content to consume at one time, instead of seeing an article and disrupting your workflow. Disruptions are one of the biggest hindrances to focus time, when you’re focused, you learn quicker. Think about when you’re at your job, you’re sitting down to do work and then the phone rings, or you’re needed for an impromptu meeting. Research at the University of California found that for every 11 minutes focus time, there is 25 minutes distraction time. For this reason, you should create a bank of information and content to consume at one time. Make it a routine.
When I was commuting to and from my day job on the bus, I found that this was the perfect time to consume articles and content that I had amassed through the day. over time, this bank built and built. But these 30 mins periods were the perfect time for me to consume when I couldn’t possibly do any work. This is the kind of environment you need to create in order to learn something.
Get a Bookmark app. ‘Pocket‘ is my choice. It allows you to save articles/videos/web pages to a single place to be consumed at a later time, all at the click of a button. Create a new email account just for sign ups. Signing up for newsletters is a daunting thought. To give someone your email address when you’re not sure how often they send a newsletter or the quality of that newsletter is something I don’t relinquish easily. Is the rest of the content valuable, will it be spam, will it be nonsense, will it just fill up my email and distract me?
The solution; create a new email address, and only use it for learning. Sign up for newsletters, free courses, ebooks, PDF’s, video courses, guides, everything you can sign up for that you think will add value and benefit you, sign up for it. Now you won’t have to worry about this content jamming up your primary email list and will continue to grow until you have a bank of content to consume in one place.
Focus during the day, learn at night or at another time. Create a place and time that you can dedicate to consuming this content at one go. Like sitting down to watch a movie, or read a book. Pick a time to sit for an hour and consume the material in your ‘content bank’, let yourself become engrossed by it. Create an environment with no distractions. This gives you a dedicated time and place with a clear purpose; Learning.
Take courses and classes, both online and IRL. Learn how the material is being presented and thought to you. If you learn the techniques and the mindset of teaching then you will be able to easily understand how you’re digesting the material and internalising it, making it easier to learn. For example, when learning to handletter, you don’t jump straight into drawing a decorative letter, you start with the basic principles of how letterforms work, why they are shaped the way they are, and how to create the shapes. Start with the ‘why?’, then you can learn the ‘how?’.
Learning faster by consuming the right material at the right time. If you want to learn new material from new sources, a good way to do it is; Whenever you are consuming content, every time you hear a new name, book, or idea go to that source. Drop the book your reading, click the link in the middle of the article, stop whatever it is you’re doing, put a pin in where you are to come back to it later and go explore that new topic, or concept, or person. Follow the rabbit trail, then follow their rabbit trail. Make a purposeful effort to go out of your way to look up the source of what you are reading, viewing or experiencing if you want to be constantly learning.
The internet makes it so easy to research unknown ideas, people, concepts, work etc. All you do is click a link or do a quick google search and you have a mountain of new material and ideas that you may not even know could change how you think or impact your day-to-day live, in even the smallest way. This is why it’s so important to keep learning. Life is a constant learning game. You will never know everything in the world, so there is no excuse to believe you know everything. Think about the thousands of disciplines, the skills, and jobs in the world and how much studying and learning that goes into those practices. At one point you sat down and thought, “I’m going to choose to learn this”, and dedicated years to learning it.
It’s like you’re favourite TV show, if you miss an episode you won’t be fully clued in to what’s happening. Compare this to when you are reading a book and it sites another book or paper in which it disagrees with or builds upon an idea but you don’t know the whole picture (Books published in recent years normally give URL links so there is no excuse for being lazy and not researching the topic more). Even listening to a podcast and the host says “We covered this more in-depth in an earlier episode, I recommend you check that out before listening to this”. You need to be curious enough to follow the trail of information.
You need to find your own sources of knowledge. It has to resonate with you. I mentioned the rabbit trail above, but don’t be fooled into thinking that if you consume the material of those that you look up to, you will be as successful as them, Just because the sources of those you look up to have success through reading from their sources, doesn’t mean you will. There is a lot more at play than just reading a piece of information and suddenly attaining the knowledge for success. There are so many situational factors. It has to resonate with you. You won’t be as successful unless a message/idea/concept rings with you and you take action on it.
Find people who give value, people whose message resonates with you, and consume everything they have to say.
You need to want to know something. You need to be hungry for new knowledge.