Back to school represents a season where we all have the opportunity to turn a blank page (literally) and start with a clean slate.
When you invest time in learning, you’re investing time in yourself and your dreams for the future. Evolving as a person happens slowly over the course of a lifetime, and when we stop looking for a magic solution and make time to grow, we can evolve on our own terms instead of letting other people dictate how we spend our time.
Your e-mail inbox will always be full of requests, and your to-do list will always have something on it. What you can do is learn to set aside the needs of others at the same time every week to do something proactive. The key is to make this practice a habit.
Did you know that lifelong learners are more likely to be promoted?
No matter where you are in your career, I will show you how to take control of your own destiny and use your willpower and ambition to carve out the path in life you’ve always wanted.
I’ve come up with a five-step program to kickstart learning into a life-long habit. By signing up for our Career Development e-mail list you qualify to win one of the five (5) one-year Skillshare memberships we are giving away for free to assist you in your learning journey, + you will gain access to a free purpose worksheet for identifying skills that will help move your career forward, and receive discount codes for W&D notebooks and journals.
Ok, now for our five-step program:
1. Step One: Embrace new beginnings.
Back to school is the perfect time to talk about HOW to prioritize learning because all of us remember how awesome it felt to have crisp, clean notebooks ready to be filled with great work. Those blank pages were a reflection of the person we hoped to become throughout the new year.
Even if your school days are long behind you, we can embrace this season of renewal and use that energy to kick-start a new habit.
Your Homework: List three things you have always wanted to start. Don’t rationalize them, just go with the first three things that pop into your head. Next, prioritize them 1-3 based on which one is most important in relation to achieving your goals this year.
2. Step Two: Get Comfortable with Discomfort.
Many of us give up on our learning goals early on because learning something new is humbling and difficult, it really takes brainpower. No one likes to try something new only to find out they are TERRIBLE at it. In every new skill, there is a learning curve, no matter if you are learning how to knit or build your e-mail list. Instead of giving up, remember that feeling of failure means you are exactly where you should be.
Anytime I get that sinking feeling in my stomach, I tell myself how many times I found myself here and how rewarding it was when I pushed through to the next phase of learning, where your confidence grows and you begin to see the benefits of your new skill. The hard part is choosing what feels unnatural or uncomfortable over the things that feel good day in and day out. And that’s hard.
Your Homework: We all have triggers that thwart our ability to stick to our newly formed habits. Begin by listing all of the things that are “comforting” ways to spend your time? A few to get you started: Netflix, Instagram, Texting. Next, list what you gain from spending time doing these activities. Finally, I want you to visualize what you gain from learning a new skill. In what ways would this new skill change your life?
3. Step Three: Identify Roadblocks.
Now that you’ve made a commitment to work through the discomfort of learning, you have to remove the roadblocks and distractions that will take precedence. We’ve created a handy-dandy worksheet that helps you identify distractions and how to neutralize their effect on your ability to focus.
Once you figure out what you need, more time, better resources, etc., we can design a schedule or find the resources necessary for you to not only get started but get back into your routine quickly if something unexpected comes up.
During this process, you will remove all distractions from the space you do your work and learning. If you need to turn off your phone, do it. You can use apps like these to block applications and time management tools like these to track the amount of time it takes for you to complete certain tasks.
If you find yourself with an insatiable urge to check your phone or surf the internet, identify the feeling and try to let the emotion run its course. Distractibility often is an escape mechanism because work and learning are UNCOMFORTABLE. If the discomfort is still unmanageable, go back to step two and spend time journaling about why you might be avoiding certain tasks.
Your Homework: Think about what you do each day. Which distractions or systems could you alter in order to make time for learning? Does your skill require you to dedicate 30 minutes each day or do you need longer blocks of time? Write down which aspects of your daily routine you could change to make room for learning. Understanding what needs to change in order to make learning a priority is key.
4. Step Four: Design Your Days with Time For Learning.
We all have things we have to do on a daily basis to keep life manageable. E-mail, chores, admin tasks… and they can begin to feel like a burden if you don’t schedule the time to deal with them. The same kind of systematic approach can be applied to bigger projects like learning a new skill.
We’ve created a worksheet for you to list all your tasks, and label them as low, medium, and high in the amount of effort they take. The worksheet then helps you organize your week by task type, so your setting aside larger chunks of time to do work that uses a similar part of your brain. This was a game changer for me and has created space for me to take on not just one new skill, but three since the beginning of the year.
Your Homework: Use our worksheet to organize your daily schedule into large chunks of time. Set aside the time you need for learning and protect it like it’s the most important thing you have to do each day. If we don’t make learning a priority, someone else will tell you how to spend that time, either through email, text or a phone call. Our worksheet will help you realize how much time is wasted jumping from task to task and show you where you can find the time to dedicate to learning.
5. Step Five: Set Limits and Implement Systems that are Repeatable.
Now that you’ve used time batching to organize the work you do on a weekly basis, your job is to stick to your flexible schedule. In order to make this schedule work for you, new rules/limits/systems need to be put into place to make it easy for you to jump back on the wagon when life happens— because it does. This is where people who have almost mastered a new routine as a habit fail. They make it too hard to stick to the program or they can’t find the energy to start all over again.
What I’ve done to make sure I make room for learning is to design routines around “me” time.
I built learning into a time where I used to do things that were unproductive. This includes listening to podcasts related to the thing I’m learning about when I’m driving, waiting for my Starbucks order or folding laundry.
I use timers to get “unstuck.” I have a hard time creating on demand sometimes. What I found works like a charm is dedicating 10 minutes to getting into the groove. If I am not “in the zone” by 10 minutes or 100% focused on what I’m learning, then I get to move on to what I WANT to do. I can try again tomorrow. 90% Of the time I’m off and running and making the most of the time I set aside to learn.
Lastly, if you have organized your weeks around time blocking and task consolidation, you should be able to jump back into the schedule with ease. If it feels like a chore or too overwhelming, you most likely need to do more work to remove distractions or have underestimated the scale or effort required for certain tasks.
Your Homework: Write down how you protect your time. List the tools and apps you’ll use to keep distractions at bay. Use a calendar to track the days you completed your learning and celebrate when you’re on a hot streak. The more days in a row you stick to making time to learn, the sooner the discomfort fades and learning becomes part of your daily routine.
No matter how busy you are, there is always time to set aside for personal development. It’s a way that we can control our destiny, improve our confidence and keep our minds and brains sharp! Are you fired up and ready to make time to learn a new skill this back to school season? Sign up for our Career Development E-mail List (by August 10th) and enter to win a one-year Premium Skillshare Membership. Also, in the meantime, sign-up for your free 2-month Premium Skillshare trial here, where you can access the entire Skillshare catalog comprised of over 22,000 classes in Creative, Business, Lifestyle and more.
Looking for inspiration?! Look no further than our #BigIdeaChallenge. With this challenge, we’re hoping to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with a community who will cheer on their dreams. Read more about the #BigIdeaChallenge here. For a chance to have your Big Idea featured on Wit & Delight, fill out this form, or share an image and caption about your business on Instagram using the hashtag #BigIdeaChallenge. We can’t wait to see what you come up with for your next big idea!
Here are our favorite Shop Wit & Delight products for fall that will truly help you harness your ambition into tangible results.
BY Kate Arends - August 1, 2018
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.