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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

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

Have you ever noticed that you tend to learn certain things simply by observing others? Learning in this way is called social learning, which is one of the 6 common types of learning. It helps you learn faster as knowledge and habits are acquired easily when they are practiced by people within a certain environment.

Throughout the centuries, humans have incorporated social learning in their lives as a major learning approach. The fact that human behavior is learned has made this possible. From initially being the only way to learn, it is now the fastest and most comprehensive learning method.

In this article, you’ll find out how you can make good use of social learning and observed behaviors to help you learn faster and easier.

The social learning theory as presented by Albert Bandura is simple. It suggests social learning is based on attention, retention, motivation and reproduction[1].

While these stages seem like common sense, there is a surprisingly large number of people who go through social interactions without learning anything because they aren’t actively practicing the different stages.

Let’s get started with the first stage, attention.

Attention

Since our mind has a limited capacity for storing data, it’s the things that we pay attention to that stay with us. Giving 100% of your attention to a situation you learn from is guaranteed to help you maximize social learning.

Stay in the Moment

When you’re focused on learning from your surroundings, your mind will focus only on what it wants to learn, so distractions fade away. However, it’s very normal to be in a situation where the information you are getting becomes monotonous or you get distracted for some other reason.

Make sure you are well-rested and energized so you can spend your energy learning things that matter to you[2].

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    Be Mindful

    Mindfulness in its simplest terms is tuning into we’re experiencing in the present rather than thinking about something that could or did happen.

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    For social learning, you should be mindful only of the conversation or activity you want to learn from, filtering out other things that don’t matter to you as much at that moment. This way, your brain can make memories of what you are experiencing at that time only, which is the thing you want to learn.

    If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on deep breathing until the distractions fade away and you can bring your attention back to the learning opportunity at hand.

    For more tips on being mindful, check out this article.

    Don’t Multitask

    In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s normal, even expected, to be a multitasker. Being amongst people and checking emails on smartphones is now normal social behavior.

    However, when you want to maximize your social learning, don’t multitask. You should focus only on the interaction you want to learn from and block out all the rest.

    Don’t reach for your device, and don’t engage in multiple conversations simultaneously. In short, don’t have your mind and other senses deal with anything apart from learning.

    Engage Actively

    Similar to the above points, learning through social learning is fast and easy if you listen, speak, and observe actively.

    When you’re actively engaged, you respond to the situation by making relevant observations, mimicking important actions, and focusing on listening so you understand.

    To maximize the benefits of learning through social learning, be attentive to those who are around and looking to learn as well. A good example of this would be medical students on clinical rotations who are actively observing and listening to the doctor they are assigned to, and responding to his / her queries.

    Retention

    Paying attention is great for learning, but what about retaining the new information?

    Our brain has limited space to store data, so how do we ensure we remember things that are important to us?

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    These tips should help increase your retention power.

    Repeat to Remember

    Our brain starts developing from the moment we are born, absorbing things from people and experiences around us. It is learning constantly, and repeated experiences help reinforce the learning.

    A new experience opens up new neural pathways in our brain, and repetition of these experiences[3] strengthens the pathways, helping us retain the information better and for longer.

    Increase Brain Power

    You can improve retention by increasing your brain power: exercise regularly, sleep well, and stretch memory muscles by playing brain games.

    Here are more ways to help: How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

    Make Connections

    Connect a social learning opportunity with mnemonics. Use mental images, music, and anything else you want to retain and recall information.

    Link new information with old to reach new conclusions. You can use writing and speech for this.

    Remember That Less Is More

    When you are looking to retain knowledge through social learning, try taking in information in small quantities.

    Full day conferences, lectures that last for hours, and similar learning schedules do not have the desired effect. The human mind shuts down when it is faced with information overload, and the learning from these situations becomes minimal.

    Research shows that if you are looking to retain information from social learning opportunities, it’s a far better idea to put yourself in the situation more frequently for a shorter amount of time[4].

    Motivation

    The idea of a tangible reward or the emotional high that comes with the sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to keep doing a good thing, while the fear of repercussions or unpleasant outcomes is what keeps from doing something bad.

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    When a child observes that good behavior of a sibling results in them getting a treat, while bad behavior courts punishment, the child wanting a treat will be motivated toward good behavior by this social learning lesson.

    Motivation to learn new information and habits is a critical part of social learning. To stay motivated for social learning, you can try the following.

    Find a Role Model

    Finding a role model and basing your learning on them means you are motivated to duplicate the role model’s behavior.

    The medical students example fits well here again. The students will be motivated to observe and imitate better clinical skills and patient handling techniques by observing others around them and aspiring to be as good as they are.

    Make a Note

    Write down things that inspired you, and keep going back to them to stay motivated.

    Talk About It

    Talk to your role model or peers about what is motivating you in a shared social learning environment.

    An example of this is a person in rehab who is motivated to attend meetings by the presence of others who have managed to kick the addiction and are on the road to recovery.

    This is based on reinforcement or punishment. Positive motivation is reward-based motivation (satisfied patients) and negative motivation is punishment-based motivation (absolute dependence on drugs).

    Remember, no matter which type works for you, without motivation, there is no reason for us to do anything.

    Reproduction

    In the context of social learning, “reproduction” is not propagation of the learning, but the implementation of it.

    Reproducing learned information is the last stage of social learning. Once you pay attention to your surroundings and retain what you learned in the setting, you are then motivated to reproduce your learning so you can get the reward.

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    Bandura suggests direct reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement as the different ways to reproduce knowledge gained through social learning[5].

    Direct Reinforcement

    This is when you act on knowledge, knowing the result will be positive, or avoid the act because the result would be unpleasant.

    To repeat the medical students’ example here, direct reinforcement would be one of them practicing patient handling techniques learned from their role model, with the expectation that the result would be a satisfied patient.

    Vicarious Reinforcement

    Vicarious reinforcement in social learning is the application of knowledge that has not been learned first-hand but is learned by observing the consequences of the actions of a third party.

    A good example of this type of reinforcement would be learning not to take drugs after seeing the condition of a drug addict.

    Self-Reinforcement

    Self-reinforcement is when a person decides to reward him / herself for good behavior, or bring about a negative consequence as a result of an undesired situation.

    Think of a student who has promised herself a scoop of ice cream if she gets an A on an exam she studied hard for, or decided to ask for extra coaching if she got anything below a C.

    The Bottom Line

    Albert Bandura presented the social learning theory in the 1970s, and it immediately gained popularity because of its simplicity, practicality, and immense potential for success. While the theory never went out of fashion, it is now experiencing a resurgence for all the right reasons.

    If you want to become a smarter learner, take advantage of learning experiences and the social learning theory to learn faster!

    More About Effective Learning

    Featured photo credit: Alexis Brown via unsplash.com

    Reference

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