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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 Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It) The Psychology of Habit Formation (And How to Hack it) How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1 How the Stages of Change Model Helps to Change Your Habits

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Last Updated on November 6, 2020

How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

Practice makes perfect. It’s a cliché saying that gets pulled out time and time again. For many, they loath to hear it, but that saying has some truth to it. After all, this saying pops up the most when we are in the midst of motor learning.

While this saying is off, as perfection is impossible, the practice side of it is the only way for us to get closer to that level. And the only way a motor skill can get to that level is through motor learning. It’s through this concept where we can grow the various skills in our lives, but also to learn effectively by learning the right way.

What Is Motor Learning?

To present an example, it’s best to explain what the theory of motor learning is. For starters, it’s been described as such:[1]

“A set of internal processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for skilled behavior.”

Our brain responds to sensory information to either practice or experience a certain skill that allows for growth of a motor task or the ability to produce a new motor skill. This happens because our central nervous system changes to allow this to happen in the first place.To see this at work, consider one of the first skills we learned as a human being: walking. While some think toddlers get up and start trying to walk, there are many complex processes at work.

The reason people started to learn to walk was because of motor learning.

At the base stage, we started to walk because months before even trying to take our first steps, we saw how important it was. We witnessed several people walking and understood how helpful it is to walk on two feet.

The 3 Stages of Motor Learning

There is more to motor learning than you might think. Over the years, the learning community has uncovered that there are three stages of motor learning:

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  • Cognitive
  • Associative
  • Autonomous

Each stage has its own requirements for further development and what each stage brings to the learning experience[2].

Motor learning for performance

    Cognitive Stage

    This base stage is where a lot of learning and context happens. At this stage, we’re not overly concerned about how to actually do the skill properly. Instead, we’re more concerned about why we should bother learning the skill.

    Once we’ve got a grasp of that, this stage also starts the trial and error process. You can call it practice, but at this stage, the idea is to at least try it out rather than nail it.

    This is also the stage where we are heavily reliant on guidance. We can have a coach or a teacher there, and their role is to provide a good learning environment. This means removing distractions and using visuals, as well as encouraging those trials and errors to guide the learning process.

    One example of this goes back to the walking example, but other instances are things like driving a car or riding a bike. Even when we are older, you can see this form of learning working.

    Associative Stage

    The second stage is where we’ve got some practice under our belt, and we have a good grasp of general concepts. We know what to do in order to perform this particular skill. The only problem is that we might not be able to do that skill all that well when compared to others.

    Indeed, we know what to do, but not “how to do it well.” It’s at this stage where the saying “Practice makes perfect” rings true. The more that we practice, the more we can refine and tighten the loose ends of that skill.

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    An example of this motor learning at work is seen in sports. Generally speaking, people can perform better the more that they practice. That’s because the more we practice something, the more we understand what input does to our bodies as well as where our current limits lie.

    Autonomous Stage

    At this stage, everything is more or less automatic and will stick in the long term. We can still improve, but you don’t need to tell yourself to go and do a certain task or assignment constantly. Your body has become adjusted to the idea of doing this.

    .

    An example of this learning is the skills that you use at work. When you get to work, you need very little persuasion to actually do your work. Whether that’s writing, lifting, operating a machine, or performing, there are a set of skills that we don’t think about and merely do.

    The Principles of Motor Learning

    The principles of motor learning are few and far between. Generally speaking, there is a consensus that the key to production of a new motor skill isn’t so much on the amount of time spent practicing, but the way that we practice.

    This idea was brought up in a 2016 study published on Science Alert, where scientists uncovered that making changes in your training can enhance your learning experience.[3]

    With this in mind, the core principles focus on the methodology of learning. Not only that, but ensuring they follow through the stages that I mentioned above, which are simple in concept.

    The core principle of this learning is to reinforce a skill so much that our execution of that skill is nothing but mindless consistency.

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    The study that I brought up is a new addition to that principle, as we now know that making alterations during our practice can cause new aspects of learning to grow and enrich our learning and mastery of a skill.

    How to Use Motor Learning Theory For Effective Learning

    The theory as we know it is to practice movement patterns until they become second nature and to experiment and make small changes in order to improve performance of a skill.

    How does all of that help with us being better at something? That study found something called memory reconsolidation.[4] One of the senior study author’s, Pablo A. Celnik, M.D. stated that:

    “What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”

    Motor learning through memory reconsolidation

      Celnik also stressed why this is such a big deal:

      “Our results are important because little was known before about how reconsolidation works in relation to motor skill development. This shows how simple manipulations during training can lead to more rapid and larger motor skill gains because of reconsolidation.”

      In other words, by using memory reconsolidation, we can learn faster and ultimately gain the ability to perform a skill faster than by practicing something for several hours without making changes[5].

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      Why does this variation enhance practice? Because the act of recalling our memories isn’t a passive process.[6]

      Whether you are learning a new skill or recalling an event, the sheer act of recalling changes the memory itself. In essence, our memories become highly unreliable as we focus and subtly alter those memories in light of recent events.

      This is because our brain is more interested in the most useful version of the world and disregards useless details.

      Bottom Line

      In order to incorporate motor learning into your life, it’s a matter of mixing up your practice session slightly. Whatever skill it is you are trying to do, urge yourself to make subtle changes to how you perform.

      If you’re writing, try applying a new word you never used previously that you picked up.

      Are you practicing an instrument or playing a sport? Try to use a different muscle or a new movement to achieve the same sound. This can be something as simple as posture or body position.

      The idea with motor learning is to keep practicing, even if you are at the stage where your movements are automatic. This variation can very well bring you to the next level of that skill.

      More About Learning Faster

      Featured photo credit: Jordan Whitfield via unsplash.com

      Reference

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