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Last Updated on May 12, 2020

13 Most Practical Skills to Learn Now (For a Better You This Year)

13 Most Practical Skills to Learn Now (For a Better You This Year)

Consider any highly successful person in history and you’ll notice they all have one thing in common:

They’re skillful people who know how to get stuff done.

But here’s the kicker:

They haven’t just mastered any skills. Instead, they’ve worked on developing skills that actually add value to their lives.

So, to help you with the same, I decided to consolidate this list of skills to learn this year. With more time spending at home now, you have no excuse not to learn something useful to help you grow!

These skills belong to all spheres of life, ranging from interpersonal to the most profitable ones. But regardless of which sphere of your life these skills cover, each of them has the potential to change your life for the better.

1. Speed Reading

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You’ve got a presentation tomorrow and you’re drowning in a whole stack of files to read through.

Since there’s really no time to read all that information, you decide to skim through to get the gist. The only problem is that as soon as you start reading faster, the text stops making sense.

Almost every reader has the habit of subvocalization, which essentially means that he says the words in his head while he reads them. This habit is known to significantly increase reading time.

Speed reading helps eliminate this tendency by allowing readers to skim through the text and comprehend it at faster reading speeds. According to an article on Forbes, an average adult reads at a speed of about 300 words per minute while speed readers clock in at 1500 words per minute.[1]

Imagine all the time you could save while reading the paper, researching for reports, skimming through emails, and reading books.

Personally, I’m up at around 500 wpm right now. If you want to learn more about reading faster, you can also read this fantastic article on how to speed read: How to Read Faster: 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed

2. The Art of Delegating

This is a skill that I believe everyone, especially those in managerial positions, should master.

The problem is that many of us are trying to micromanage tasks and the people around us.

But here’s why that sucks:

Micromanaging drains all your mental energy on tasks that don’t matter.

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By learning to delegate, you can free up your time and mental space for important tasks.

To master the art of delegating, check out my step-by-step guide: How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Learning to Play an Instrument

You might just consider playing an instrument as a fun skill to learn.

But what if I tell you that learning to play an instrument can help you boost memory and improve cognitive functions?[2]

In fact, it’s even shown to retard the onset of dementia.[3] With so many mental and health benefits, this is certainly one of the best creative skills to learn.

Check out Udemy’s list of music courses where you can learn to play any instrument online. However, if you’re after faster results, I’d recommend looking up someone in your area who could teach you the instrument you’re interested in.

4. Prioritizing Tasks

Many of us lack the skill to prioritize. But today, more than ever, we need to learn this art to increase productivity and output.

I believe that the biggest reason why people fail at prioritizing tasks is that they lack daily planning. Something as simple as having a to-do list in order of priority can help you boost your daily output and effectiveness.

But it gets better…

By learning to prioritize, you’ll let go of a lot of useless tasks that wouldn’t make it to the priority list.

And despite that, you’ll realize at the end of the day that you accomplished more results with lesser effort.

Here’s atheultimate guide to help you prioritize better: How to Master the Art of Prioritization.

5. Mastering Body Language

According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), people consider information from body language over facial expressions when perceiving emotions.[4] This study effectively proves that you can get your message across to people more firmly if you use the right body language. That makes this one of the most important skills to learn.

Now, “body language” itself is quite an extensive subject involving gestures, eye contact, body posture and much more.

To master your own, try out these 11 body language tricks. Bear in mind that body language doesn’t improve overnight. In fact, it’s a subconscious change that occurs over the course of months.

6. Videography Skills

Have you noticed how social media giants like Facebook and Instagram have been trying to push more video content on your feeds? You’d also know that brands are now routinely marketing their products and services through Youtube; a lot more than they used to.

There are a host of reasons for that, one of which is that video content has been proven to garner increased user interaction.

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It’s simply more stimulating, gripping and entertaining. People enjoy it and want more of it every day.

So, by learning videography skills like shooting, lighting, and editing, you can ride this social media wave and help yourself or others generate more video content. Oh, and there’s always the possibility of making good money out of this skill!

If that interests you, then you can check out these videography skills courses on Skillshare.

7. Mental Clarity

Did you know that in 2013, the average person’s attention span had decreased to about 8 seconds?[5]

Now, there are a plethora of reasons why our attention spans are dropping so rapidly. But I attribute this loss in attention span to our collective loss in mental clarity.

What you need is to develop the skill of decluttering your brain and find your purpose, drive, and reason.

Without a defined goal, you’re just a hamster running in its wheel. And a lousy one at that since research shows that mental fatigue drastically impacts physical performance as well.[6] So, it’s about time you reduce your brain fog.

By having mental clarity and defined goals, you can then reverse engineer your brain and decide what you really need to focus on. With that knowledge, you’ll know what needs immediate attention and what can wait.

Interested in learning more? Here’s an article about it: How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

8. Learning Humor

What if I tell you that being funny is a skill?

In fact, I consider it so powerful that I decided to include it in this list of skills to learn.

Being funny is almost synonymous with being liked. If you make people laugh, then you’re automatically a center of attraction for all your social groups. This brings with it a lot of benefits including greater influence in your peers and increased social exposure.

Research published in the American Psychological Association shows that humorous speech is comprehended and retained better.[7] So, in easier terms, people can understand you better if you’re funny.

Another study showed that humor increases camaraderie and productivity in work environments.[8]

Now, as a funny guy myself, the best advice I can give you to learn humor is to watch people who are good at it. Notice how they deliver punchlines and focus on their timing and tonality. You may notice that quite a lot of them actually try to laugh at yourself. Embracing their “weaknesses” is actually a way of showing their confidence in themselves: How Laughing At Yourself Makes You Attractive Instantly

Another great way of learning humor is watching quality sitcoms like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. With time, you’ll start to notice yourself cracking similar jokes as the characters in these shows.

9. Writing

If you came to this list looking for creative skills to learn, then consider this evergreen one. Despite rapid digitization, writing remains one of the strongest forms of communication.

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Be it an office report, a social media picture caption or a romantic text; good writing can get you some useful brownie points.

But don’t just consider writing as an important communication skill. Writing is, in fact, one of the most profitable skills to learn.

Take it from me; I make a living from this skill and teach it to people all the time. Gone are the days when you had to write a book in order to make money writing. Today, there are industries like blogging, social media marketing, copywriting that have opened so many doors for people to earn a living through this skill.

You can try this free course to polish your copywriting skills. But if you’re looking for a general course to improve your overall writing, you can check out this online course by Arizona State University.

10. Learning a New Language

Learning a language is a fantastic way of improving your mental capabilities. When you learn a new language, you expose yourself to a brand new set of rules and vocabulary that exercise your brain muscles.

In theory, you’re training your brain to function better by learning a new language. Research shows that bilinguals take more rational decisions[9] and have a stronger working memory.[10]

Being bilingual can open a lot more doors in life than you’d think. By learning a local language, you can better connect with the people of that area. This can even lead to a host of job opportunities in the field of translation to consular officers.

One of the easiest ways to learn any language is by using a language learning app. Here’re some good ones recommended for you: 9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use

11. Carrying Conversations

Let’s just face it:

Nobody likes a person who’s hard to converse with.

In fact, there’s nothing worse than talking to a person who doesn’t know how to carry a healthy discussion.

People who know how to start a conversation and carry it are loved by everyone for the sole reason that they’re easy to spend time with.

No matter the situation, such smooth talkers never make others feel uncomfortable and can even say the cheekiest of things in the smoothest of manners.

This art is vital in winning arguments, negotiations, and conversations. If you want to improve this skill, then check out these conversation hacks to get along with anyone in any sort of discourse.

12. Social Influence

Social influence is one of the best skills to learn for everyone. In fact, this skill was mastered by some of the most powerful personalities in human history.

People like the late Nelson Mandela and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were masters of the art. Actually, they wouldn’t be regarded as the icons that they are unless they knew how to get people rallied behind them.

To positively influence people, you can try out these ways: 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

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Now, social influence is a complex subject. So, if you’re interested in working on this skill, I’d advise you to read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini.

13. Gaining Control over Your Creativity

We all know that creative people are more innovative and are able to find better solutions. But do you ever find your creativity burning out from time to time?

If so, then you’re not alone. In fact, creativity comes in fits and bursts for most people.

Here’s the thing:

You can gain control over your creativity so that ideas never seem to run out.

As a writer, engineer and entrepreneur, I know how irritating it is when you’re desperately looking for your creative juices to kick in. Merely waiting it out until you’re feeling creative again can make you lose precious hours… even days! And let’s just face it; we hardly have any time for that.

In order to gain control over your creativity, you can try a number of approaches. My favorite of which is retreating to a creative hobby that you love. This can be playing the piano, drawing or singing. Essentially, you’re looking to get those creative juices flowing so you can utilize them elsewhere.

A useful tip for obtaining a creative problem-solving approach is using the Six Thinking Hats Technique[11] by Edward de Bono. This approach suggests that you divide your thought process into 6 thinking styles (or hats) and use them only one at a time.

For example, virtually wearing the white hat can mean thinking only about the monetary aspect of a decision. Similarly, the red hat may compel you to think of the emotional facet alone while the black hat may warrant considering what could potentially go wrong and so on.

At times when you’re lacking the creativity to tackle a problem, using the Six Thinking Hats Technique can be a gem. Here are 30 more tips to rejuvenate your creativity.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. In this list, I tried covering everything from skills to learn for making money to those that can help you gain influence in your social circle.

Before choosing which skill you’re actually interested in, I’d like you to first consider why you’re learning it in the first place.

Learning to play an instrument could prove to be a great skill to learn when bored. But there’s no doubt that a skill like videography could prove to be a new income stream while gaining mental clarity could increase your productivity. So, choose the skill you want to learn according to the benefits you’re looking for!

Want to learn these skills effectively? These tips can help:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps 13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them 6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

Featured photo credit: Blaz Erzetic via unsplash.com

Reference

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