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

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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

What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life The Careful Art of Delegation: How to Delegate Effectively How the Flow State Helps You Stay Productive and Concentrate

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1 23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use 2 10 Remarkable Traits of Successful Learners 3 10 Powerful Learning Hacks to Boost Your Learning Ability 4 How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done 5 How to Become an Expert (And Spot out One Nearby)

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Last Updated on August 11, 2021

23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

1. Coursera

Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

2. Khan Academy

Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

3. Open Culture Online Courses

If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

4. Udemy 

Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

6. Academic Earth

Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

7. edX

Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

8. Alison

Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

9. iTunesU Free Courses

A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

10. Stanford Online

Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

11. Open Yale Courses

Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

12. UC Berkeley Class Central

Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

13. MIT OpenCourseWare

Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

15. Codecademy

Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

16. Code

Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

17. University of Oxford Podcasts

The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

18. BBC Podcasts

For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

19. TED-Ed

Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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20. LessonPaths

LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

21. Memrise

Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

22. National Geographic Kids

The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

23. Fun Brain

Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

The Bottom Line

With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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