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6 Places You Can Learn a New Skill Online

6 Places You Can Learn a New Skill Online

We’re lucky enough to live during a time in which almost every single piece of information known to mankind is available to almost anyone searching for it. And you don’t need to shell out tens of thousands of dollars on a college degree to start learning, either. There are countless websites out there to help start you out on the path toward learning a new skill. Whether you want to pick up a new hobby or make yourself more marketable, the Internet is there to help. While many of the following services offer most for those willing to pay for premium memberships, they all have a lot to offer free of charge.

1. Learn to code

Computer programming is becoming an increasingly prevalent and marketable skill in the modern world. Luckily, sites like Koding can help get you started from the ground up by providing users with a cloud-based environment where they have access to a network of over one million of their peers. You can start by reading through a number of guides designed to get beginners on their feet, then move onto chatting and working with other more advanced programmers.

Best of all, it’s absolutely free!

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2. Learn a new language

If programming isn’t for you and you’d rather stick to human languages, sites such as Duolingo have you covered. Using Duolingo, you can learn Spanish, French, Portugese, Italian, and much more through lessons that build on one another as your skills increase. You’ll start with simple tasks, such as learning nouns, adjectives, and verbs, eventually being able to string sentences together fluently.

And — I can’t believe I’m saying this again — it’s totally free!

3. Learn to speed read

While reading for pleasure or information is one of the more wholesome activities you can undertake, it can also be time consuming. However, Spreeder aims to help you cut down on the time it takes to get through articles and novels without allowing any information to slip by you. By weaning you off of subvocalization, Spreeder not only trains you to increase your reading speed by up to four times, but also helps ensure your reading comprehension increases as well.

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Although Spreeder is free, it’s part of a larger program titled 7SpeedReading, which is a much larger and more in-depth premium program.

4. Learn to draw

Drawing is one of those skills that most people just assume you either have or don’t. But that simply isn’t the case. Anyone dedicated enough can learn the techniques artists use to create beautiful masterpieces. Sites like Drawspace offer a variety of lessons, from art history and terminology to strategies and tips to take your drawing skills to the next level.

Although many of the lessons on Drawspace are free, to get the full effect you need to become a paying member.

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5. Learn to play music

Similar to drawing, people tend to think they aren’t “musically inclined” and will shy away from trying to learn an instrument — even if they really want to give it a go. Luckily, those hesitant to pick up an instrument and play in front of a master instructor can use sites like LessonFace to take virtual lessons on anything from guitar and piano to singing and rapping. While you will be interacting with actual teachers, doing so through a computer screen is much less nerve-wracking than playing in front of actual people.

Though there are many sites that offer standard lessons free of charge, LessonFace is more of a “middleman” that connects learners to master instructors who offer their services for a variety of fees.

6. Become a photographer

Ironically, despite the fact that true photography is just as difficult as playing music or creating art, services like Instagram have led everyone to believe that it’s incredibly easy. Of course, that’s not the case. To get you started as a true photographer, however, Lifehacker offers a five-part lesson, from understanding the equipment to the various techniques involved in bringing still photos to life.

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If you’re that serious about photography, be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for even the most basic equipment. But you can’t really put a price tag on a new skill or hobby, can you?

Featured photo credit: the goddess of folk metal / M. Jeremy Goldman via farm1.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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Ask If They like What They’re Doing

If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

More Resources About Team Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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