By Dr Eugene Brink
Covid-19 has accentuated certain trends that have already obtained in the world in the 21st century.
In a world where a vast array of knowledge and skills is paramount to getting ahead and where many people might be out of work or finding a new line of work, learning new skills has become a necessity. This serves other purposes too, such as doing extra freelance work to augment your income or simply becoming better at your current job.
Productivity expert Danny Forest reassures us that it isn’t as difficult as you might presume. “Here’s the one thing you should know right away: it’s not as scary or as hard as it seems. A lot of us regularly learn a bunch of new skills without thinking much about it. Learning a new skill is very much an activity our brain does ‘without our consent’.”
So, how do you increase your prowess? Here are some quick tips:
- Set a goal
It is always best to focus the mind with something to strive towards.
“Knowing your end goal is the critical first step to learning anything. It’s what will keep you moving in a consistent direction, especially when things get tough – which they will. So, it’s important you define your goal as concretely as you can,” says Sean Kim, founder and CEO of Rype, a personal language coaching platform.
Most importantly, when you set your goal, identify the bigger purpose that’s motivating it. “Why do you want to learn this skill and not some other? What will you do with it once you do? Trying to learn something voluntarily just for the sake of learning rarely lasts long,” says Kim.
It is recommended that you tie outcomes to timeframes to better focus your mind. Leaving something open-ended will eventually leave it in abeyance. Make it a priority!
- Think it through and break it down
Forest adds that it is useful to first think things through and focus on the following:
- What would it mean to master the skill?
- Can I break it down into small subskills?
- What resources can I use to learn it (notice the plural)?
- How can I track my progress?
- How can I be deliberate and consistent in my practice?
The best way to master your new skill is to break it down into digestible parts. Once this process is done, it is best to focus on mastering one part at a time until each individual subskill is acquired. Some of us may be able to effectively multitask, but for many of us it is a bridge too far. Hence, it is better to learn one thing at a time.
- Adopt multiple ways of learning
We all like to learn in certain ways. For some of us it is visual, for others audible and for others it’s reading. Learning a new skill, however, will require of you to not only take a multidisciplinary approach, but to also learn in new ways.
“So, what’s really the best way to learn? It depends on what you’re trying to learn in the first place,” writes Farheen Gani. “For example, if you’re trying to learn a new language, don’t just read the textbook. Watch TV shows, listen to music, and converse with a native speaker through a language exchange app. In an age where everything is available at the click of a button, there are many ways to learn. The key is to interact with the information.”
Danny Forest, 2 July 2019, “Your essential guide to learn new skills fast”, https://medium.com/skilluped/your-essential-guide-to-learn-new-skills-fast-c7e3fc493bea.
Farheen Gani, 11 July 2017, “Top 10 strategies for learning new skills”, https://zapier.com/blog/learning-new-skills/.
Sean Kim, 10 February 2015, “Try these 5 steps for learning new skills faster”, https://www.fastcompany.com/3051781/try-these-5-steps-for-learning-new-skills-faster.