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Every Lifetime Learner Should Try Out These Time-Tested Techniques

Every Lifetime Learner Should Try Out These Time-Tested Techniques

Lifelong learning is a continuous process of gaining new knowledge and experience. Nowadays, it has become quite a trendy thing. People of all ages join web courses and communities, get degrees online, boost their skills, and find new hobbies.

Do you have a strong desire to gain new knowledge? Then you can and should do it right now. There are so many options and opportunities for everyone. “It’s never too late to learn” is an old saying, but if you’re a lifelong learner, then you know just how true it is.

There are a few time-tested techniques that can become part of a daily routine for lifelong learners. Use them to make your learning experiences better.

1. Read constantly

Reading is a perfect way to combine learning with delight. Do you prefer fiction to non-fiction? If so, then go ahead and read fiction. Is non-fiction much better for you? Well then, that’s reason enough to enjoy non-fiction. Every single story brings you new ideas and experiences. Try to have a pocket-sized book with you so you can read it whenever you have a free moment, like when you’re taking public transit to work or having a lunch break.

Create a list of the books you want to read during the year and check them off one by one as you finish them. At the end of the year you’ll see how many great books you’ve read. If you have at least 30 checked off, you should be quite proud of yourself.

2. Create a list of what you want to learn

Making lists is generally a good way to plan not only your studying, but also your living and learning. You might have “to-read,” “to-watch,” and “to-do” lists, so why not have a “to-learn” list as well? Look through good web resources, choose an area you’d like to study, and add all those courses to your list.

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It makes sense to save awesome websites with online courses and check them from time to time for new lectures, tutorials, and podcasts. If you enjoy learning, there are a number of web platforms you’re probably already using, but there are many others you might not have tried yet. You’ll find some of them mentioned below.

3. Join a study group or book club

Have you heard that studying in a group is more effective for all group members? People in the group know what they want and their motivation is high. Healthy competitiveness in study groups is a good force, motivating all learners to do their best to discuss important issues and quickly absorb helpful information. If you have weekly study group meetings, it’s a perfect way to stay organized, since you have to prepare for every meeting, research something, make presentations, and so on.

Joining a book club is also a great method. It can help you learn how to think critically and share your views regarding the book you’ve read. And you enjoy reading, right? So it’s a win-win.

4. Don’t forget about practice

After you’ve taken a course, it’s time to check how your skills work in practice. You can use your newly gained skills while working or studying to make these activities much easier and more productive. For example, let’s imagine you took a course in writing. In order to master your writing skills, don’t be afraid to start a blog, where you can write about your life or any other specific topic that interests you (sports, cooking, literature, art, and so on).

5. Teach somebody else

Even though you may lack the competence to be an experienced teacher at the moment, you can still share your knowledge with other people and tell them about the resources that helped you. Teaching is a chance to both reinforce and extend what you know, which is always a plus.

6. Tailor time for daily self-education

You have a chance to learn something new each and every day. Allow an hour for reading, set a rule to look through a high-quality scientific article in the morning, watch one educational video a day, or do anything else to boost your skills. Just be sure to set definite time limits, or else your learning can get in the way of everything else you need to accomplish during the day. Also, find your perfect study time and establish a routine so the process is as productive as possible.

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7. Work out your own study style

There are many different learning styles, such as visual, auditory, and tactile. The majority of people are visual learners, meaning it’s better for them to absorb information if they see it. However, most learners also combine different learning styles for better efficiency. You can try reading out loud, watching educational videos, listening to audio books, highlighting important areas in your text, creating infographics and mind maps, building models, and making notes on separate sheets of paper.

A list of useful websites for self-education

As I mentioned earlier, it’s good to know where to find courses and study materials. The resources listed below are dedicated to online education:

Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, ALISON, MIT Open Courseware, Udemy – online courses from institutions all over the world.

TED, Big Think – communities for sharing ideas and enjoying recorded talks.

YouTube #Education – educational videos.

University of the People – online educational programs.

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OpenStudy – online community where students can find help or assist other users.

Authorama – public domain books.

Library of Congress, MITLibraries – vast variety of study materials.

SparkNotes – resource with concise information about fictional books and literary analysis.

Useful tools that can help you

Lifelong learners also need to use great tools, and when you have the right tools at hand, they make studying easier and more delightful.

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WeekPlan – tool that keeps daily plans in order and makes planning convenient.

Unplag – plagiarism detection engine that helps you make sure you don’t have accidental plagiarism in your writing.

Dictonary.com Word of the Day – resource to help learn new words daily.

Online Stopwatch – tool for students who prefer working with a timer.

As you can see, there are all kinds of ways to become a lifelong learner. Using the time-tested techniques outlined above will help you become the kind of lifelong learner who gets the most out of each and every learning experience.

Featured photo credit: Girl Reading a Book at Home BY VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.imgix.net

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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