We live in a world that is very different from what we had 20 years ago. The difference is mainly in the rate of change. Things are changing faster and nowhere is that felt more than on the career front. The business works pretty much the same way and we have found ourselves having to learn new skills but in smaller packages. Those who love to name things are calling this microlearning – learning in small units or pieces with the skills-building the person. Take for example a social media manager learning copywriting, and then video editing. You can see how these come together and build on each other. So how do you go about doing this to improve yourself? Here are 6 steps to learning new skills.
Start with why
First things first, you put yourself in a place where you are very clear on why you need to learn the skill. Learning something for the sake of learning is not going to work. You need to make sure to have a list of reasons, preferably a long one. Starting with why also helps you to know which part of things to focus and this is essential to learning skills for implementation. There is a complicated equation I teach investors but since the practical use of the equation is done in excel we spend much more time understanding the parts of the equation. So start with why you want to learn the skill.
Diving in sounds like a great idea but the results we get from practice show us that this is not the best idea. For everyone who has mastered a new skill, there is almost always some sort of regret about the path they took there. Some will say they wish they’d known about another avenue and tried that or not wasted time learning a certain part of it. So give yourself some time to find out from those who have walked the path before what is worth it and what isn’t. So many people are willing to sell you short courses that you later find out are completely worthless.
Not every pursuit needs additional resources but some do. In fact, in many cases, resources and the perceived lack of them end up being an excuse or crutch that prevents people from learning what they need to learn. So when we talk about resources it’s not about getting all the resources together before you start but about figuring out which resources are essential and which ones only become important later. Similar to the concept of the MVP you need to know what is the minimum threshold to start learning.
Once you know why, how and what you need to do it’s time to do it. Immerse yourself in the learning. I tend to advise a multifaceted approach to reinforce your learning. So if you are going to learn something you should also listen to podcasts, practice and perhaps even add a few channels to your YouTube subscriptions. The idea is to learn the concept in as many ways as possible. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just by listening to a podcast on a subject. This also helps you to learn how the skill or concept is applied practically. Speaking of practical application.
Practice with iteration
I’m going to boldly assume that at some point you intend to use the skill you are learning. Learning without practice is therefore shooting yourself in both feet. It’s not just about practice though, it’s also about understanding the learning curve. This concept implies that growth in capability with a skill tends to be exponential so the more you do the more you learn but each time you grow at a faster rate or in greater increments. Knowing your goal should be to aim for high iteration. The concept differs from skill to skill but the idea is with most skills there is a threshold number. Artisanal candle makers say their number is 84 candles and if this were your goal you want to make those 84 candles as quickly as possible. Just one thing to note, the learning comes from the iterations so making 84 candles at once doesn’t give you what you need.
Test and Reflect
One thing you get to realise in adult education is that people are not opposed to learning, they simply dislike tests. Deeply dislike tests. Of course, you can’t afford such a luxury, testing is essential because it tests your progress, and shows you what you have grasped and where you are struggling. This then allows you to reflect on the way you’ve been going about things and to improve yourself or the learning activities where necessary.
These tips are not for the fastest way to learn new skills but rather the most effective. Each step helps to make sure you’re doing just enough but not too much.