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Last Updated on December 22, 2020

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible
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The world of work is changing rapidly when it comes to professional development. It’s common for professionals to be expected to do more with fewer resources. This is why it’s so important to be able to learn at work in a way that is efficient and effective, as it will help you avoid stress and overwhelm.

At work, especially when starting a new job, not only do you need to perform tasks on hand, but you also need to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to sustain your career, advance, and improve your work performance. When you feel too busy to upgrade your skills, how do you make time to learn at work?

Continuous learning impacts your employability. It is essential to show employers your willingness to stay updated or even ahead of trends in your work life. Your ability to think critically, be agile from learning, and consistently apply what you learn is critical in a constantly changing economy.

In this article, you will discover how to learn at work effectively.

1. Identify Your Learning Goals

Here are a few questions to help you think about your learning goals:

  • Why do you want to learn?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What knowledge or skills can help advance your career?
  • What knowledge or skills can help enhance your work performance?
  • What do you need in order to grow in your career and as a person?

Consider feedback or comments from your peers, managers, and stakeholders. There is no limit to what you can learn. The learning can range from technical skills to interpersonal skills.

2. Take Concrete Action

You need to take control. If you’re not invested in your own learning, no one else will be. This means you’ll need to take steps to realize your learning.

Taking action comes in different forms for different learners. For example, asking your manager to be considered for a project or seeking advice from your mentor can be good steps.

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People learn more when they take the initiative. When you show others that you’re a continuous and willing learner, they will likely see your growth and be more likely to invest their time and resources in you.

3. Make Learning a Habit

Set realistic and achievable learning goals. Select one to a maximum of three learning goals.

Commit to your goal like you would to eating healthy foods or exercise. You may want to find an accountability partner or inform your manager so that you have a supportive network to keep you on track for each learning opportunity.

Take a look at this article and learn how to do so: How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

4. Budget Time to Learn at Work

You need to make a conscious effort to learn at work. This means intentionally making time and space to do so.

Make sure that you learn in bite-sized pieces so that it’s sustainable over the long-run. This could mean blocking off 15 minutes daily in your calendar or whatever suits your learning style. For example, if you learn one new word daily, you will learn 365 words in a year.

We all know that life happens, and you may feel too busy to learn. However, by being mindful of why learning is important to you and making it a priority in your calendar, you are reminded to turn a learning habit into a routine.

5. Learn on-the-Job

A common perception is that the majority of learning happens in the classroom. However, 30 years of research in leadership development has proven that 70% of learning happens on-the-job. Here’s the breakdown of effective leadership development learning experiences:[1]

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  • 70% challenging assignments
  • 20% developmental relationships
  • 10% course work

The 70-20-10 Rule for Leadership Development & Learning

    Here are 7 specific ways to learn on-the-job:

    Stretch Assignments

    Once you’ve identified your learning objective, you can find stretch assignments or projects that can facilitate your learning.

    For example, if you’ve identified that building relationships is a skill that you’d like to enhance, you may want to seek projects that involve multiple stakeholders.

    Create New Experiences

    Whatever knowledge base you’re trying to expand, try to get out of your routine and find new experiences related to your learning goal. Sometimes, in order for you to learn at work, you’ll need to create new experiences.

    Review the strategic direction of your organization for development ideas. New experiences can entail activities such as new client opportunities, more cross-functional partnerships, job shadowing, job rotations, or volunteer work.

    Learn From Others

    Learning from others is a simple and easy way to pick up quick tips.

    Heighten Your Observation Skills

    The next time you’re sitting in a meeting, what do you notice about the presenter? What do you see in their body language? What do you notice about the participants in the meeting? What lessons did you learn from the meeting that you can apply the next time you run one?

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    Observe Someone Who Inspires You

    Maybe this person is an effective project developer or seems to navigate workplace conflict with ease. What is it about this person that inspires you? What leadership behaviors does this person show, and how do they act on a daily basis?

    Learn From Your Manager

    We’ve all had managers that were remarkable and those that are unforgivable. What qualities do you want to exhibit? What qualities are better left behind?

    Learn From Your Peers

    Notice the strengths of every peer on your team. What do they do well? How do they contribute to the team?

    Ask Questions

    There is a lot to learn in any organization. Learn at work by being curious and asking questions.

    When you ask questions, you are clarifying and seeking to better understand the situation and people involved. The information you gather expands your mind and knowledge base.

    Try asking more open-ended questions so that you can get a more descriptive narrative from the other party.

    Find a Mentor or Trusted Advisor

    We all need someone who we can talk things out with in order to learn at work. A mentor or trusted advisor can provide you with a safe space to express your feelings without being judged.

    Be very specific about what you need from your mentor: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    What efforts have you made to enhance your knowledge and skills? Share with your mentor the actions you have taken. This is a great starting point to show your mentor that you have experimented with a few options and would now like to have a discussion on how to move forward. This approach will likely be better received than just asking your mentor for advice.

    Remember that your mentor’s time is valuable. Show him/her that you have invested in yourself and tried to make improvements on your own first.

    Get Support

    Let your manager know that you welcome opportunities for learning. S/he will likely have exposure to on-the-job opportunities that are aligned with your learning needs and the organization’s goals.

    Keeping them updated on your learning progress can also support your performance goals. This will give you an opportunity to tweak your learning goals based on your career aspirations and their observations of your performance.

    Ask to be Introduced to New a Colleague

    Building positive relationships across the organization can help increase your cross-functional knowledge and learn at work.

    Speaking with people outside of your department can help you better understand different perspectives as you work towards team and organizational goals. Furthermore, employers recognize collaboration as a key skill to build organizational capacity and influence without authority.

    The Bottom Line

    You need to be very intentional about your own learning.

    The most effective way to learn at work is on-the-job. This means you need to identify your learning goals, create a learning habit, and identify on-the-job experiences that will effectively facilitate your learning.

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    No one can take knowledge away from you. It’s in your own interest to continue to grow and develop yourself. Learn with a beginner’s mindset, stay curious, and keep your assumptions at bay to gain new perspectives.

    More to Help You Learn at Work

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Center for Creative Leadership: The 70-20-10 Rule for Leadership Development

    More by this author

    Ami Au-Yeung

    Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

    Is People Management the Right Career Path for You? Signs You Need a Career Change at 30 (And How to Make It Successful) How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible 7 Steps to Achieve Career Success on Your Own Terms 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

    How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done
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    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    How Serious Is Information Overload?

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

    This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

    We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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    The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

    Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

    But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

    Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

    Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

    When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

    How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

    1. Set Your Goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

    If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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    • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
    • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
    • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

    If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

    (You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

    Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

    Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

    3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

    Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

    Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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    4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Summing It Up

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

    I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

    I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

    More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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