In this post we share our best advice for learning while you’re at work.
In a world that is constantly changing, ongoing learning is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. Or as Joyce Russell, Career Coach at the Washington Post, put it: “learning is not just a nice thing to do – it is essential for staying on top of things” (WP).
Keeping up your learning can help you stay ahead of change caused by globalisation or automation, it can set you above other candidates when it comes to career changes, promotions or applications for further study, and it can even be good for your long-term health (HBR)!
So how exactly do you set about learning during work hours?
Explain to your manager what and why you’re learning
By explaining to your manager, or colleagues, what and why you’re learning, you can resolve feeling guilty about taking time to learn. Try to explain why this learning is important for you and how it might benefit your organisation. (For more help on this, check out our other post How to convince your boss you should take a FutureLearn course during work.)
Put aside the time and be strict about protecting it
During a busy work day it can be really difficult to set aside time to learn. You might feel guilty as if you’re not doing ‘proper’ work or you might feel like learning isn’t a priority. But set aside your guilt and try to be strict – block out time in your calendar, say no to that pointless meeting, set your phone to silent and close your inbox. In the long run your employer (and career) will thank you.
Try to find a subject that’s good for work, and good for you
You’re far more likely to stick to your learning if you find the subject interesting. Dedicate some time finding a topic that captures your attention as well as being helpful for your career or personal development.
Set yourself a goal
Many of us don’t pursue learning for the sake of it – we’re usually learning to achieve something specific like a promotion or career change. While goals like these are helpful, they can often seem quite remote. So try setting yourself a smaller, more manageable goal this week. It might be time-related, i.e. ‘I want to spend 3 hours learning this week’, or subject-related, i.e. ‘I want to understand the basics of big data analytics’. That way at the end of the week you know you’ve achieved something concrete.
Make yourself accountable
If you’re worried you’re still not going to stick to your learning, try to find someone to hold you to account. It might be a colleague or a friend. They can check keep checking in with you to help you keep going. Alternatively, if you’re feeling really brave, you could try agreeing a forfeit if you fail to complete any learning! How does making the team tea for a month sound?
Share what you’ve learnt
Finally, one of the most important things to remember about learning: sharing. If we want to try to encourage as many people as possible to learn at work, then we need to talk about learning more! Try doing a presentation to your peers about what you’ve learnt, or share your own advice for keeping up your learning.
Get started with your learning now – try a course starting this week:
- First Aid for Babies and Children
- Leadership for Healthcare Improvement and Innovation
- Big Data: Measuring and Predicting Human Behaviour
- Japanese Culture Through Rare Books
- Understanding Information and Technology Today
P.S. Have you got tips for learning at work? Let us know in the comments.