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10 Things Only People Who Can’t Stop Learning Would Understand

10 Things Only People Who Can’t Stop Learning Would Understand

Learning matters in living a full and rich life. You can take your passing interest in art and explore it more deeply. You can also improve your career prospects by learning new skills. To discover the benefits of lifelong learning, read on.

1. They expand their library of books regularly.

As businessman Jim Rohn remarked, “Some people read so little they have rickets of the mind.” People with non-stop learning are often found browsing for books on Amazon, visiting their local library or book stores. Lifelong learners also ask friends and family for book suggestions, especially for non-fiction titles.

Tip: To reach your goals faster, choose books that relate to your goals: 15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss.

2. They take the time to ask questions when they take courses

Deep engagement with learning makes the experience more valuable and easier to remember. Fortunately, this tip is easy to use. Simply take a few minutes during a class break to write down some questions about the material. If you are taking a business course, you can always ask questions about how to apply the material to your career goals.

If you are uncomfortable asking questions in front of other people, there are other options. You can send questions by email or ask for an appointment to discuss the matter in depth.

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3. They learn to earn

Continuing education is vital to maintain your career growth. Lifelong learners view their education as a portfolio with several components. For example, project management professionals are required to pursue ongoing education in three areas: leadership, technical knowledge and management.

If you are seeking to increase your income, consider learning sales and marketing skills. Those skills make a great difference even if you are not in a traditional sales job.

4. They enjoy deeply exploring their interests and hobbies.

In the pursuit of the good life, lifelong learners know that career enhancement is not the only part of the picture. Foodies can explore their appreciation by  taking wine courses or improving their cooking skills (I have enjoyed taking wine courses at George Brown College in Toronto). In addition, there is much to be said for studying music, drawing and other creative efforts.

Tip: Read The Top 17 Ways Learning a Musical Instrument Gives You The Edge.

5. They enjoy the social aspect of learning.

By taking a course or attending a seminar, lifelong learners are exposed to other highly motivated people. It is sometimes difficult to find people who share a passion for lifelong learning. That’s why in-person learning is worth the price: the experience includes exposure to lifelong learners. There is also much to be said for the positive energy and excitement you can learn from a conference.

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6. They use what they learn to improve their lives.

Lifelong learners know that reading a good book on productivity, leadership or stress management is only the first step. If they read a productivity book such as “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, they know the value lies in application. Successful lifelong learners learn how to use the Weekly Review to improve their personal organization.

7. They know how to pursue lifelong learning on a budget

They know there are many different ways to acquire new knowledge and some of them are very easy to afford. For an easy to read introduction to a topic, I suggest reading a “For Dummies” book. I have found them a great way to learn new technology skills. There are also a wealth of resources available through many public libraries. Many public libraries provide access to traditional books, digital books, and video courses.

More learning options for learning on a budget:

Udemy.com: This online learning platform is known to provide frequent sales and discounts on courses covering technology (e.g. Microsoft Excel) , business skills, personal development.

Coursera.org: You can take over 1,000 college/university level courses for free through this website. There are specializations offered in Data Science, Data Mining, Cybersecurity and other fields.

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Clarity.FM: Have you ever wanted to get answers and advice directly from experienced business professionals? That’s what you can get from Clarity.FM. I have used this platform to obtain advice on online marketing and growing my email list.

8. They know how to learn from conversations with experienced people

Books, courses and other traditional forms of learning are effective. Yet, one must admit their limits – there is little interaction or customization. That’s why there is great learning value in speaking with a skilled person at length. A live interaction gives you the ability to learn and build a relationship at the same time.

To make the most out of a learning meeting with another person, take the time to prepare. Specifically, read about the person’s background and accomplishments (e.g. read their articles and books and their Linkedin profile). In addition, come prepared with a written list of questions. Finally, plan to pay for the lunch or dinner with the expert.

9. They know how to use journals and reflection to learn from their mistakes and errors

Everyone makes mistakes, even lifelong learners dedicated to learning a better way to reach their goals. That’s where reflection and journals come to play. For example, if you take a risk at work and it blows up, take the time to review the activity. Take twenty minutes (or more) to write in a journal about the experience. Ask yourself what lessons you can draw from the mistake. What would you have done differently? How could you have prepared better for the experience? Reflecting on your mistakes transforms them into valuable learning experiences.

For more inspiration on the benefits of keeping a journal, read these articles from Lifehack.org:

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6 Ways Journaling Will Change Your Life

10 Ways Journaling Can Improve Your Life

10. They schedule time for learning on their calendar

Successful people dedicated to lifelong learning understand that they must allocate serious time to learning. One approach is to spend an hour every morning on study – dedicating an hour every day to work on your skills puts you into the ranks of top performers. In addition, some people use one lunch hour per week to attend a webinar, read a book or work on another educational activity.

Featured photo credit: Young adult girl reading book near the window. via shutterstock.com

More by this author

Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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