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Published on November 27, 2019

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way

The world of work is changing rapidly. It’s common for professionals to be expected to do more with fewer resources. This only fuels stress and feelings of overwhelm.

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 your career 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. 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’s the motivation behind your learning?
  • 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 on 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.

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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.

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

4. Budget Time to Learn

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

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 and work 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 our calendars we 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, and
  • 10% course work

And here’re 7 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 a meeting?
  • Learn at work by observing someone who inspires you. Maybe this person is an effective people developer or seems to navigate workplace conflict with ease. What is it about this person that inspires you? What leadership behaviours does this person show? How does this person act?
  • 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? What do they have in common?

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.

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Try asking more open-ended questions beginning with Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How 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. 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

What efforts have you made to enhance your knowledge and skills? Share with your mentor the action 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.

A peer once told me to bring RIBS – Raise an Issue and Bring a Solution.

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. She/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.

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Ask to be Introduced to New a Colleague

Building positive relationships across the organization can help increase your cross-functional knowledge.

Speaking with people outside of your department can help you better understand different perspectives as you work towards team and organizational goals.

Employers recognize collaboration as a key skill to build organizational capacity and influence without authority.

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.

Some key ways to learn on-the-job include:

  • Stretch assignments
  • Create new experiences
  • Learn from others
  • Ask questions
  • Find a mentor or trusted advisor
  • Get support
  • Ask to be introduced to new a colleague

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 a bay to gain new perspectives.

More to Help You Learn Faster

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

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More

25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More

The brain is often thought of as similar to a computer. When the brain is powerful and working properly, it will enable you to perform all your cognitive and bodily functions smoothly and efficiently, and the reverse is also true.

Unfortunately, our brainpower tends to decline as we grow older. And as you might have seen in media reports, loss of memory and dementia is a growing concern for people today. Brain wellness is now right up there with heart health.

If you are finding yourself forgetting things more than usual, it can be a little alarming. But you need to know you are not helpless when it comes to keeping your brain healthy and powerful. There are simple brain exercises for memory improvement you can do to boost your brainpower so you remember more.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Neurology, older adults who engage in regular physical exercise like jogging and cycling are less likely to be affected by age-related brain illnesses that can limit memory and mobility.[1] And those people who perform regular, targeted brain exercises keep their brains sharp and healthy, which reduces cognitive decline and memory impairment.

When you exercise your brain, you will also improve your creative abilities, which will give you a competitive advantage in your job.

Moreover, brain exercises strengthen your ability to think on your feet and give witty responses, meaning you won’t be lost for words at critical moments in conversations.

Goodbye to awkward silences!

While you can enroll in a number of online brain training programs, experts generally recommend sticking to brain training exercises that involve real-world activities.

According to David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, exercises to strengthen brain function should offer novelty and challenge:

“Almost any silly suggestion can work.”

Here’re 25 simple real-world exercises you can do starting today to sharpen your brain and improve memory.

1. Drive a New Route Home

As simple as this exercise may sound, taking a different route home stimulates the brain. You are forced to involve more senses to find your way around, which keeps your brain alert instead of mindlessly driving home or to work on familiar routes.

Avoiding ruts and boredom is critical to keeping your brain sharp, says Eagleman.

2. Repeat It out Loud

In order to remember anything you have just read, heard or done, repeat it out loud.

For example, repeat out loud the name of someone new you’ve just met and you will nail the name down in your mind.

3. Listen While You Read

A study conducted at the University of Puerto Rico found that out of 137 Spanish-speaking students quizzed about an English book they were given to read, those students who read the book while simultaneously listening to an English audio version outscored the group that only read on eight different quizzes about the book.[2]

Listen to audio of something while simultaneously reading or watching it. You’ll engage more of your senses and help your mind remember more.

4. Play Crossword Puzzles

Simple crossword puzzles and other word games like scrabble, where you rearrange letters and make as many words as you can, stimulate the brain and improve memory.

5. Play Chess

Don’t forget to play other brain-boosting, strategy games like chess and checkers. Logic-based numbers games like Sudoku can also keep your brain fit.

6. Learn a Musical Instrument

Start playing a musical instrument. Studies show that learning something new and complex over a longer period of time is beneficial for the aging mind.[3]

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7. Play a New Sport

Start playing a new sport that utilizes both mind and body, such as tennis, golf, or even yoga. Athletic exercise like these will not only improve your physical fitness, but also your mental fitness.

8. Learn a Foreign Language

Enroll in a foreign language course online or at your local education center. It will help to sharpen and rejuvenate your brain.

9. Draw a Map from Memory

When you return home from visiting a new place, draw a map of the area from memory. Expand this brain exercise by drawing maps of your commute, neighborhood and other areas to enhance memory.

10. Cook a New Cuisine

Take a cooking class. Learn how to cook new cuisines. Cooking stimulates different parts of the brain and different senses including smell, sight, and taste.

11. Do Chores with Eyes Closed

Try washing the dishes, sorting laundry or taking a shower with your eyes closed. This will force your brain to use other neural pathways to get the task done.

Obviously, don’t do anything with your eyes closed that would endanger others or yourself.

12. Eat a Meal Using Chopsticks

Chopsticks will force your brain to pay attention and give your brain a good workout, especially if you have never used them before to eat.

13. Switch Hands When Doing Stuff

If you are right-handed, try using your left hand to do things like brushing your teeth and eating.

For example, if you are already good at using chopsticks to eat, use your non-dominant hand instead to challenge your fine-motor skills that are controlled by the nervous system consisting of the brain.

14. Connect with New People

Every time you connect with other people, you expose yourself to new ideas and other ways of thinking and doing things. This stimulates your mind and widens your world view and thinking process.

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So, be open to traveling more and attending shows and events to meet and interact with new people. It’ll keep your mind in tip-top shape.

15. Savor Different Flavors in Meals

Challenge your taste buds by deliberately savoring your meals. Try to identify the individual ingredients in food, including subtle spices and herbs for a tasteful burst of mental stimulation.

16. Do Math in Your Head

Don’t always rush to use a pen and paper, or a calculator to figure out math problems. Try to do them in your head. Make things a little bit more interesting by working out math problems in your head while also walking.

17. Practice Meditation

Training your mind to be quiet is not always easy, but it can be done through meditation.

Some of the benefits of practicing meditation include stress reduction, improved learning ability, increased focus and attention, enhanced memory and mood, and also reversal of brain atrophy.

18. Memorize Phone Numbers

By memorizing people’s names and phone numbers, you strengthen connections between your brain cells, which can make a big difference for your memory.

Divide 10-digit numbers into sections, such as 801 665 9378 to make it easier remember. It is arguably easier to remember 801 665 9378 than 8016659378.

19. Take up a Craft Hobby

Craft hobbies like knitting, drawing and painting are now getting more attention for their brain-boosting powers.[4]

Take up any craft hobby of your choice to strengthen your fine-motor skills and boost your brainpower.

20. Tell Stories

Telling stories stimulates the brain through recalling and recounting important details. It also helps you remember events and associate emotion with memories.

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Storytelling is so good for memory it is used to improve the lives of people with in Alzheimer’s disease.[5]

21. Create New Acronyms

Come up with your very own clever acronyms whenever you need to memorize something in a hurry.

Creating original acronyms or mnemonic phrases, where you use the first letters of words within a phrase to form a name, can sharpen your brain and assist in remembering more.

22. Visualize What You Want to Remember

Let’s say you want to remember to buy an item you need from the supermarket. Picture the items on your shopping list balancing on parts of your body.

For example, imagine balancing an egg on your nose, a bottle of milk on your head or a package of cheese on your shoulder. It’s fan and you won’t forget that image.

23. Vary Aspects of Your Surroundings

Vary things like the music in the background, time of day and whether you sit or stand when doing something to increase recall.

The theory is that the brain associates words (or whatever you are doing) to the context or environment around you. The more contextual cues you provide your brain, the more it has to draw upon when trying to remember specific things.

24. Space out Your Learning Sessions

Cramming is not always the best way to learn or remember things. Instead, review the information you want to learn or remember (statistics, foreign vocabulary, historical dates, scientific definitions, and so on) periodically over time. By spacing out your study sessions throughout the day, you learn more. Learn more about the technique here: How to Use Spaced Repetition to Remember What You’ve Learned

Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that he could learn a list of nonsense words if he repeated them 68 times in one day and seven more times before being tested the next day.

25. Sleep on It

Get enough shut eye each night. The brain needs six to eight hours of sleep, or at least two cycles of deep sleep each night to complete the necessary chemical changes needed to integrate new skills and information into long-term memory.

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Remember, your brain thrives on variety to keep those synapses firing. Exercising your brain with activities that are challenging, novel, and complex will help you to remember more and keep your brain fit.

More Brain Exercises

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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