One trait that I see time and again among successful people is the habit of continuous learning. I don’t mean the casual type that just happens as you walk through life. I mean an investment in learning -- the kind that takes effort. Successful people develop smart habits, devote time to reflection, engage in strategic planning and goal-setting and seek out positive mentors to ensure continued success. You can be one of those people.
Most people think they don’t have time for continuous learning. When are you supposed to read a book between office meetings and taking the kids to soccer practice? How can you network when you’ve got to go to the gym and plan a birthday party? And who cares about researching “best practices” when you’ve followed the same routine for years without any problem?
The fact is you don’t need to enroll in a Master’s program or read War and Peace cover to cover in order to keep learning. Follow these three tips to help you fit ongoing education into your busy schedule and make learning part of your routine.
1. Select summaries.
Book summaries are an excellent resource for professionals. Check out book lists from reliable sources like Metacritic, The New York Times Book Lists and Verne Harnish’s Weekly Insights. Then search the titles on summary services. I recommend Blinkist and Summary.com. The summaries are succinct and can be read while you’re on the treadmill or during a lunch break.
2. Learn to listen.
Or listen to learn. Get in the habit of listening to podcasts, and you’ll maximize your productivity throughout the day. My favorite podcasts include NPR All Songs Considered, NYTimes Book Review, The Tim Ferriss Show and TED Talks. They’re an efficient and entertaining way to stay informed, and they can be paused and resumed as your schedule allows. Pro tip: Listen to audio sources at double speed. You’ll have to pay close attention, but you can reduce a four-hour audio book to two hours -- and there’s the added bonus of working on your concentration.
3. Know who’s in the know.
The best way to learn is through conversations with experts in their field. Seek out a community of friends and colleagues who are also continuous learners, and engage them in conversation whenever possible. Schedule weekly lunches with people you can learn from, and when you’re facing a specific challenge, go through your contact list to see who might be able to offer advice. You’ll remember content more easily from discussing it with others, and since they’re your colleagues and friends, you’re likely to be more interested.
When you commit yourself to continuous learning, and surround yourself with people who are also committed, you’ll find more and more opportunities for growth. You’ll find time in your day that your didn’t even know existed, and of course, you might just learn something.