Since the pandemic began, people have been searching for silver linings to help them through difficult times. One of these is our newfound opportunity to learn.
Whether as a result of working from home, getting furloughed, or not spending much time going out, most of us have more time these days. And we’re shifting more of our activities online.
How do you make the most of this unexpected chance to sharpen your skills, round out your capabilities, and improve your career and daily living?
Leverage time and money wisely
With a decent Internet connection and your smartphone, you might have access to more information at your fingertips than previous generations of students had in their school libraries. There are “how-to” articles and videos on just about anything. Even with an hour each day, you can cover a crucial aspect of whatever skill you’re trying to learn.
However, the Internet is shorter on quality. Online information tends to be very generalized and shallow. The Internet is also disorganized and full of unverified sources; it takes greater effort to find scholarly articles and reliable, in-depth research.
This imposes further demands on your most valuable resource when it comes to learning: free time. Most adults seeking career development have to do so while earning a living. And even if you’ve managed to set aside enough money to tide you over should you quit your day job, how many months can you afford to go without work? How many employers would positively view that gap period? Time is always a limiting factor.
Thus, not all efforts to learn online lead to equal outcomes. As you seek more specialized training, you’ll need to pay for access to scientific journals, counseling workshops, expert-led webinars, and online courses. Otherwise, you’ll face diminishing returns if you remain restricted to the vast, free, yet informal knowledge on the Internet.
Run a learning experiment
In theory, everyday devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops can make learning a breeze. But in practice, many people have found that centuries-old analog methods of note-taking are more conducive to learning. And research has backed this up, finding that students who took notes by hand demonstrate better comprehension and retention than those who used devices.
The process of note-taking using pen and paper is slower than the pace of most instructors. It forces students to pay attention and digest information on the fly to capture the essential points. By making your brain more engaged, this tactic helps you to learn.
On the other hand, if you’re learning at home, following your own pace, it’s possible that using your laptop or tablet might not be a handicap. It comes down to your individual preferences. How will you know what works?
Go about your learning efforts as though you were part of an experiment. Start with the analog-versus digital comparison, then fiddle with other variables such as the venue, time of day, or even what soundtrack you’re playing.
Try many tactics, test yourself for knowledge retention afterward, and take note of the results. In due time, you’ll have a better picture of how to optimize yourself as a learner.
Try to work on range
The effectiveness of your time spent trying to learn something will ultimately be judged on its impact on your life. If you want to learn how to fix your plumbing or build a swing for your kids, then the quality of your handiwork is the test you have to pass.
Picking up a new hobby carries even less pressure in terms of results. Sure, there are some objective criteria for determining whether your amateur paintings or photographs are any good. But most hobbies are valuable only for the pleasure they bring. Unless you plan on entering a competition or turning that skill into a new career, you don’t need to worry much about return on investment.
The same can’t be said for learning efforts intended to develop and further your career. It’s unlikely that the process itself will be enjoyable or bring added value to your household. The only measure of success in this regard is the impact on your job performance or ability to advance and seize better opportunities.
When it comes to your continued learning as an adult, you’re in charge of the entire curriculum. Keep in mind that while some careers reward an intense focus on a specific skill, the modern world is increasingly favorable to greater range. You might want to study with an eye toward the breadth and depth of knowledge to succeed.