One aspect of a balanced approach to business and life is to focus on and coordinate your professional development and training experiences. However, it’s not always easy to keep up with the latest in your industry and grow knowledge in other areas.
Fortunately, there are ways to effectively and efficiently train yourself, growing your education on your own. Here are some tips about how to use even the smallest moments in your day to add skills and knowledge to your work.
Begin each month with a learning project: It can be easy to be overwhelmed with all of the business topics out there. Just one trip down that aisle of a bookstore can make you dizzy. That’s why every month you could focus on just one area. Maybe you want to learn more about leadership or creativity or finance. Make sure the books you read, the websites you visit and the videos you watch focus on your chosen subject. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn in just 30 days.
Read books quickly: Do you want to learn what the latest best sellers are saying, but can’t commit the few days it would take to read the whole thing? Follow this technique to get through a book fast, while still understanding the key points.
- Read the table of contents, glossary and index first. With that you will learn about the most important topics are in the book.
- Next, go through the book and read anything in bold, any titles and any subtitles. That will give you a good idea of the structure and the main ideas of the book.
- Finally read the first line of every paragraph of the book. This will get you all of the specific points and none of the filler.
With that technique, “reading” a business book shouldn’t take more than an hour and you will be able to refer to it in your conversations and implement some of its ideas. If something is really interesting to you, you can read deeper into that section of the book to find out more.
Keep learning (with paper): Don’t be afraid to rip out magazine and newspaper articles and keep them in a “To Read” folder that you can keep on your desk or take with you on business trips. Read in those moments you are waiting for a meeting to start or flight to board. But in order to keep current, throw out anything that is more than 30 days old. If you haven’t read it, it’s already old news.
Keep learning (on the Web): If you are staring at your computer during the day, make your idle time more productive. Have a few spare minutes? You can start watching a lecture from some of the top business schools in the country on YouTube. Download lectures off of iTunes and plug them into your player and listen while you work. There are so many good ones — start by searching YouTube or go to oculture.com, which has some great overviews. Another good site is personalmba.com, which recommends good books and has an outline for areas of business to study on your own.
Hold yourself accountable: Tell your friends and family what you plan on learning each month. Twitter your progress. Start a blog to share what you’ve found out. Before you know it, the people around you will see that you and your business aren’t content with staying still.
To most effectively get from where you are to where you’re going, you’ll have to learn a little bit more along the way. Go, get started. Set yourself up to grow, and you’ll move toward that next opportunity more effectively and maybe even save time and money on your way there!
Jason Womack travels the world teaching people and their companies about workplace effectiveness and productivity. He is a small business entrepreneur, a former teacher, a busy business traveler and an active triathlete. He can be reached at 805-640-6401 and by e-mail at Jason@WomackCompany.com.
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