“If our thoughts shape our world, then we can decide every moment is valuable and then make it so.” – Lori Deschene
How many times have you looked back on your day and wondered where the time went? How often have you been so busy that you didn’t have time to simply live?
Similarly, how many times have you had to start over after putting hours, days, weeks, or even years into a project or venture?
In any of these cases, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve wasted a significant amount of your time on Earth.
But that’s only true if you make it so.
The truth is, your time and experiences are as valuable as you perceive them to be. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is completely up to you.
Valuing Day-to-Day Moments
How many of you reading this actually enjoy running errands or doing chores?
If you didn’t raise your hand, I don’t blame you. These daily maintenance tasks can leave us feeling like we’re stuck in a hamster wheel. Go to the store, buy food, come home, cook, wash dishes, clean up…and do it all again tomorrow.
It’s easy to feel as if you’re just going through the motions. That you waste inordinate amounts of time running these errands on a daily basis. That there’s so much else you could be doing with your life.Advertising
While there really is no escape from having to complete these daily tasks, you can escape the idea that completing them is a waste of your time.
Instead of approaching these tasks thinking “Okay, once I get through this, I’ll have time to relax,” aim to get as much as you can out of each experience.
Grocery shopping can become boring if you always buy the same old stuff. But there’s nothing that says you can’t spice things up a bit (see what I did there?). Actively seek out new ingredients for a recipe you’ve never tried before. Put a little extra effort into what used to be a monotonous task, and you might end up actually enjoying yourself. Ironically, this will all end up taking more of your time, but you’ll almost immediately see the value in such time well spent.
Doing laundry, sweeping the floor, and scrubbing the bathtub are most likely not on the top of your list of exciting things to do in life. But, of course, they must be done. And if you change the way you approach these seemingly menial tasks, you’ll find much more value in each of them.
Think of all that goes into these chores. It might not be glamorous work, but it is strenuous. Keeping your home spotlessly clean requires you to have a consistent vision of what you want each room to look like, and persevere through a ton of adversity – in the form of your kids, pets, and spouse. Understand how meaningful it is that you’re constantly fighting against the grain, but still have the intestinal fortitude to press forward.
You’ll probably learn some tricks along the way, too: better ways to keep grime away; an easier way to fold t-shirts (believe me, there is one); the best way to get your kids to clean up after themselves. These are all skills you picked up along the way while completing these Sisyphean tasks that seemed to be a complete waste of time.
That is, they seemed that way until you took the time to see the value in each of them.
Valuing Failed Efforts
When I first started writing on the web, I had no idea what I was doing. I pitched articles that had absolutely no value to my clients. My ideas were boring. I was overwhelmed by the many published writers and bloggers with hundreds of articles under their belt. I remember thinking I just “didn’t have it.”
If I were to have quit back then, then, yes: all of the time I spent trying to become a writer up until that point would have been a complete waste. I wouldn’t have learned anything, and certainly would not have grown professionally.Advertising
Instead, I started thinking: “How can I learn from these shortcoming? How can I use these experiences of failure in order to grow?”
I learned that failure is not an end in and of itself; it’s simply a bump in the continuum toward success.
Once I began to tie my failures into my journey as a writer, I began to see the value in each of my failed attempts.
I stopped deleting rejected pitches. Instead, I started reading over them to see how I needed to improve.
Rather than completely erasing drafts and starting from scratch, I began reworking them section by section until they were as close to perfect as possible.
Instead of completely ignoring a client after being rejected, I began contacting them to get insight into what they were really looking for, and how I could change my approach to better suit their needs in the future.
I’ve definitely faced setbacks along my journey as a writer. But, because I’ve improved the manner in which I approach these setbacks, I can honestly say that, as long as I’m writing, I never feel like I’ve wasted my time.
A Changing Wind
So far, I’ve discussed fairly minor incidents that might set you back a couple hours, or at most a few days.
But what about the setbacks that seem to erase years of your life?Advertising
I’m talking about those of us who have graduated college only to discover their degree is useless. Or those who have been laid off after twenty years at the same office. Or those who realize they’ve been stuck in a rut for years, but are afraid it’s too late to make a change.
When these revelations hit you, it can be a hard pill to swallow. You’ll probably feel as if you’ve completely wasted your life, and there’s no way to get back on track.
Well, it’s not true.
As with everything I’ve discussed so far, you’ve only wasted your time if you allow it to seem that way.
Throughout my college years, I studied literacy education. I wanted nothing more than to help struggling students become proficient readers every day of my life. I was, and am, good at it.
But, in a market in which hundreds of applicants vie for a single position, and those that do get hired are the first to be laid off when budget cuts roll around, I finally decided the educational field wasn’t for me.
I could easily look back on my time in college and working as a tutor and substitute teacher as a waste. I’m not working in the field, so how can I say my past experiences in the educational industry are useful to my current situation?
Thinking that way would be a complete disservice to my past efforts, and my current abilities.
Instead, I choose to focus on the strengths I’ve gained over the years, and leveraging them in my current occupation as a writer.Advertising
I absolutely love reading and learning about anything this world has to offer. That hasn’t changed. Learning new information provides me with more material to include in my writing.
I enjoy explaining complex ideas in relatable and memorable ways. I don’t need to be in front of a classroom to make use of that skill. In fact, as a writer, I have more time to ensure my explanation is comprehensible as possible before I publish it.
I feel fulfilled when I know my efforts have helped improve the lives of other people in some way or another. Writing on the Web allows me to reach many more individuals than I could ever imagine reaching in the confines of a single classroom.
Just because I never truly reached my initial goal of becoming a full-time teacher doesn’t mean my journey was a complete failure. I may have had to redefine how I use the skills I’ve learned along the way – but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost those skills entirely.
There will almost certainly come a time in your life when you need to leave the past in the past. But you should never forget what you’ve learned along the way.
Time is life’s greatest teacher. If you learn from its lessons, you’ll never waste a moment of your life.
Featured photo credit: Hourglass / Mustafa Awwad / Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com
Last Updated on September 24, 2020
17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process
In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.
The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.
Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.
1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer
Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.
For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.
2. Use the Pareto Principle
Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)
Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.
3. Make Stakes
Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.
However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment.
4. Record Yourself
Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.
5. Join a Group
There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.
6. Time Travel
Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.
Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.
7. Be a Chameleon
When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.
Studies have shown that, apart from learning,
“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”
Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.
Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.
Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.
The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing.
Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.
Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results
10. Find a Mentor
Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.
Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.
If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.
11. Sleep on It
Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.
Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.
12. Use the 20-Hour Rule
Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.
His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.
Check out his video to find out more:
13. Learn by Doing
It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.
Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.
14. Complete Short Sprints
Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.
One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks.
15. Ditch the Distractions
Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.
16. Use Nootropics
Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.
Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide, particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.
Find out more about brain supplements in this article.
For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.
The Bottom Line
Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.
More Tips on How to Learn New Skills
- 10 Ways to Find Learning Motivation (Even After You’ve Graduated)
- 7 Steps to Make Self-Learning Effective for You
- 9 Efficient Learning Habits of Smart Learners
Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com
|||^||Harvard Business Review: What Motivates Employees More: Rewards or Punishments?|
|||^||Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning: Mimicry in Social Interaction: Its Effect on Learning|
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|||^||The Next Web: It doesn’t take 10,000 hours to learn a new skill. It takes 20. And here’s how…|
|||^||Science Daily: Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find|
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