We’re trending towards a culture of learning. The top innovative companies and the talent within them are embracing lifelong learning as the solution to staying skilled and agile in a changing world. Working from home only increases the pressure to stay competitive with your colleagues and competition. There’s just one problem–who has time to fit all this extra learning into an already busy schedule?
It’s all about prioritization and time management. The American culture is obsessed with busyness. We love to use excuses like “I’ve got so much on my plate right now” and “there’s never enough hours in the day” to let ourselves off the hook for trying new things and challenging our comfort zone. And most of us generally feel busy, spending our time doing things that may or may not be productive.
How to Find Time for Learning
Yes, we’re all busy and yet we all have time to do the things that are important to us. Here are a few tips to find time for learning in a busy schedule.
Use Pomodoros: It’s a method of structuring your time that focuses on 25 minutes of intense, uninterrupted productivity followed by five minutes of break. Get the things that are the most important to you done by scheduling them in pomodoros. You can commit one pomodoro to learn something new (just 25 minutes) per week or a few specific days per week to accomplish bite-sized learning in between your Zoom calls. Use this handy pomodoro timer and set your routine with do-not-disturb features on your smartphone and your favorite playlist.
Download the Blinklist App: If you’re envious of your well-read colleague and wish you had more time to spend reading, Blinklist provides an efficient way to explore the highlights and important messages of today’s non-fiction books without committing 6-10 hours to read the whole thing. Blinklist provides 15-minute audio highlights perfect for people on the go. Work one blinklist title into your morning routine and that’s like reading 5-7 books a week while you put on your makeup or shave your face.
Spend Five Minutes a Day: Starting small and building toward the routine of longer time frames can be another way to develop the skill. Start with five intentional minutes per day of learning. As you sit down at your desk to begin working, take five minutes to do one thing:
Read an Article
Watch a Video
Reflect on Recent Learning
Practice a Task
Articulate Learning into a Knowledge Story
Participate in a Virtual Learning Lunch: Use one lunch break per week to connect with colleagues in your industry for meaningful, on-trend chatter. This exposure to new ideas and different points of view will inspire growth. Check with your local chapter of relevant professional organizations or reach out to others in your network and set your own thing up.
Evaluate your Priorities: We all have the same number of hours in a day and yet some people can do so much in that time while others can come up with so many excuses for why they can’t get to the same level of productivity. Accept that it’s not the number of hours in a day that is the problem. It’s how you use them. If you want to commit time to learn, take a hard look at your priorities and make sure learning and growth are near the top of the list. I started paying more attention to how much time I spent on video games, watching TV or other activities. You can find small windows and trade parts of those hours for learning.
Give up one ‘bad’ habit: The average user spends at least 30 minutes every day aimlessly scrolling on social media. The only time you should be spending on these platforms is while engaged in intentional networking activities or as necessary to perform your job. Before you know it so much time has gone by and there is not much to show for it. Be conscious of your screen time by setting alerts or turning on Focus time.
Use your Errand Commute: Remote workers may not have a daily commute, but there is a good chance that you still leave the house on a regular basis for groceries, appointments, or other errands. Use that time wisely. Cue up the right playlist for the car using your favorite podcasts, the Blinklist app, or TED talks and learn on the go.
Change your Mindset: Desiring something strengthens the connection to taking action. Use the two-minute rule to build manageable habits. Small goals inspire action in small steps that add up to big differences. If you can’t find time to read one book per month, try finding time to read two pages before bed each night. It’s the same result framed in a smaller commitment.
There’s an App for That: Use the technology in your pocket to your advantage. Instead of spending time playing games while you’re waiting for a meeting to start, replace games with something useful. Try out your favorite learning apps like Duolingo for language, Ted-Ed for innovation, Mimo for coding, and Headspace for mental well-being.
Create a Learning Cue: From the best-selling book Atomic Habits, the best way to make a new habit stick is to create a cue that signals when it’s time to switch from work mode to learning mode.
Final Thoughts on Finding Time for Learning
Learning doesn’t have to be a big commitment. If you only have two minutes in between meetings or five minutes as you sit down to start your workday, you can commit to taking small steps towards learning that add up to big changes. Finding time for learning isn’t impossible, even for the busiest people on the planet. The problem is that we don’t make it a priority or we set our sights too high and overcommit. This can lead to frustration and stops us before we start. Start small and build up. You will start to see that your mind will begin to desire the time to learn over other activities.