Four habits to help you learn new skills

Photo by Roman Kraft on

Photo by Roman Kraft on

Learning and development can impact your career mobility. Being an agile learner – picking up new ideas and skills quickly, is important for keeping up with the pace of change. Some people are good at this, while others let their learning programs fall by the wayside.  Here are some habits to help you stay on track!

Focus on emerging skills
Being smart about the areas you focus on, means spending your energy on learning things that will give you the most return on your effort. How do you know where to put your energies?

You need to do your research. That means things like

  • tracking trends in your field and/or industry – looking at job ads for the qualifications and skills expected,
  • reaching out to your network from LinkedIn, groups and associations, to people in your field and those in positions you aspire to, and
  • watching online discussions on social media platforms, notice the ideas the thought leaders endorse.

Doing the research is important for establishing the purpose of your learning. This helps retention of learning and commitment to outcome(s).

Engage with others
Online learning and self-paced learning programs are great for learning on your own and in your own time. Their effectiveness is enhanced when you interact and collaborate with others. Research shows that these activities help motivate you to stay in courses and consolidate learning by sharing the process and benefiting from the perspectives of others.

The sociability of learning is important for enjoyment and sharing new ideas. Discussion and solving problems with others draws on a greater pool of ideas while connecting with others in a common purpose. The result is a richer more satisfying experience.

Implement learning immediately
Find ways of using newly learnt skills as soon as possible. The new skills need practice to be reinforced and become habitual. Applying them to practical situations helps them to “stick”. It may mean applying them independently or in collaborative work projects. If there is no opportunity to do this easily at work, try and find a way to apply the learning/skills to projects at home.

Our brains like repetition and linkages. Linking learning to practical applications allows you to build on new neural pathways. Repetition allows the brain to consolidate them.

Set goals and track your progress
Setting goals and working towards them is a great way to track your own progress. It could be to master certain skills, in working towards a career aspiration like a new job, a promotion or a chance to lead a project. By keeping your goal(s) in mind, helps you keep your eye on the prize. You are reminded of what you are working towards, how you are closing the gap.

Our brains like success. So achievement of goals or steps towards them give us that taste of success. It is motivating and reinforcing through a virtuous cycle of ongoing progress.


Over to you
Habits don’t form over night. They evolve. Your habits and your future are in your hands. As Steven Covey says in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,

Sow a thought, reap an action;
sow an action, reap a habit;
sow a habit, reap a character;
sow a character, reap a destiny.

Kehoe, Mike. 2018. “4 Habits of People Who Are Always Learning New Skills” in Harvard Business Review, 31 January 2018.

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