So, September is upon us, and with it the start of a new school year. As children and young people return to school and college, many adults are also preparing to use the freedom to embark on new learning journeys. Even if you are not undertaking any form of study, the end of the summer holidays is a turning point, and a great time to rebuild your routine and focus on personal development and self-improvement.
If there is one single thing that you can do in order to transform your personal life, career or business it is learning. Perhaps this well-known quote summarises it best of all:
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”Mahatma Ganghi
Whether you are interested in personal development or self-improvement purely for your own sake, or are an entrepreneur on a mission to succeed, it is fair to say that learning is the key that unlocks the door. And the real beauty of learning – it doesn’t have to cost anything, other than your time.
Ask any famous entrepreneur and they will tell you that they set aside some time for learning every day, even if they have reached what appears to be the very highest level in their field. Although he has been the subject of much criticism recently (let’s not be distracted by the politics here), Richard Branson did put it brilliantly in a blog post entitled ‘Learn something new every day’, published in 2014 –
“I see life like one long university education that I never had -every day I’m learning something new.”
Image Credit – Virgin.com
Another quote that sums it up brilliantly is this one –
“Never stop learning; for when we stop learning, we stop growing.”Loyal ‘Jack’ Lewman
How can I find time to learn?
Even if learning costs nothing in the material sense, it takes time. And for the procrastinator, this is reason enough to put it off.
“Time?”, I hear you cry, “Where on Earth would I find the time?!”
The cold, hard truth is that it is up to you to create time. Yes, I said that correctly. It’s not about making time – that almost implies that learning is an afterthought. We live in a busy, demanding world, and the only way to be sure that you can invest in learning every day is to create time. If that means waking up an hour earlier or staying up an hour later at night, then so be it – it is a small price to pay for the gift of knowledge. Alternatively, take a different approach as I do, for example. I love knowledge but finding time to read is a challenge. My personal solution – audiobooks. Whenever I have to drive to a meeting or appointment or when I’m running (or at the moment, turbo training in the kitchen), I listen to an audiobook on my phone. It is thanks to this that I am able to consume a book or two a month, sometimes more (depending generally on the state of traffic and/or how close my next marathon is).
What’s the best way for me to learn?
The answer to this question ultimately depends on you and your character and circumstances, as well as what learning is actually available in some cases. Whilst a university degree may look great in paper and is a worthy goal to aim for, it may be neither available or relevant to your particular field. Sometimes hands-on or ‘on the job’ training will be the best possible way to learn, whilst others may benefit from a mentor. Those with a need for structure and organisation will benefit from a traditional course that has assignments and deadlines, while some may be much more explorative and happy to let their learning take its own direction. In addition, you should consider your own particular learning style.
Whatever your particular case, one of the great things of the modern age is that there are so many possibilities to learn. Here are just a few suggestions, all based on the assumption that a full time return to study is simply not an option for you.
The audiobook service from Amazon. With an incredible library choose from, a month’s free trial and a choice of subscriptions thereafter, if you love books there’s a lot to love about Audible. There are two key reasons it is a personal favourite for me – firstly, I can ‘read’ while driving or exercising, and secondly, as a minimalist, I do not need to house a constantly growing collection of physical books. There are of course other services available, but this is a firm favourite for me.
There is a huge range of distance learning courses now available which allow you to study in your own time. Providers range from established academic institutions to small companies specialising in a particular niche. If you want recognition for your learning, choose a course that is accredited by a relevant body – such as the CMI for coaching or ACCA for accounting. A great place to find good quality courses in just about every area of industry that I’ve used many times is Reed Courses.
If you want to go all the way to degree level, then it really is worth thinking about the Open University.
Your local library
Despite drastic cuts in funding, your local library is still a great place to begin your learning journey and can offer a surprising range of options that are free of cost – as well as providing an alternative learning environment away from the office or home if this is something that you find yourself needing. Take a moment to stop by next time you’re near your library – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Depending on the type of work you do, finding an experienced mentor can be a hugely beneficial investment in your learning. Before rushing into any kind of mentoring, take time to establish what knowledge or skills you wish to develop and who would be best placed to give you this. Also bear in mind that mentoring is a two-way process – so before approaching a potential mentor, think about what they get out of the deal too.
Podcasts, blogs etc
One thing that the internet has done is make a vast amount of information available to everyone – and an awful lot of it for free. The catch? Finding high quality content from credible sources. Provided, however, that you are willing to hunt around and do your background research there are some fantastic podcasts, blogs and youtube series out there that are well worthy of your time. The #AskGaryVee Show is just one that comes to mind.
Make it your mission to create time in your daily routine to learn, even if it is just for ten minutes a day. Not only is this a positive step towards reaching a new level and achieving your ultimate goals, it will also keep your brain active and healthy as you become older. Sounds like a win-win to me.