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How to Learn from Other People’s Experiences

How to Learn from Other People’s Experiences

When we’re children, we learn (and fail) all the time. We fall off bikes, scrape knees, add sums incorrectly, and tell someone we have a crush on them when they’re clearly not interested (*cringe*). That’s just what kids do.

As adults, we tend to move into areas of core competency, sigh a breath of relief (Hooray! No more feeling like I’m constantly failing at everything!), and then promptly stagnate. This, of course, is the quickest route towards the kind of career and life experiences that feel just kind of, well, “meh.” In order to keep yourself engaged and motivated, it’s important to continually form new and unexpected neural connections.

Fortunately, in the internet age, it’s not just easy to learn, but also to learn from other people, so you’ll have a model to go from and you won’t feel so alone in your endeavors. Here are 4 tips for doing just that.

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1. Try a new healthy habit for 30 days

If you’re like most people, you set lofty, unachievable goals for improving your health. Maybe you decide you’re going to shed 40 pounds before Memorial Day, or maybe you’re all about that unachievable New Years’ resolution. The problem is, big goals are hard to maintain, and you’ll feel discouraged and overwhelmed when you don’t meet them, which will up your chances of quitting.

Instead, trying giving a 30-day project a try and blogging about your experience. The idea of 30-day projects is to focus on nurturing one (and only one) habit intensely for that time period, so you can really commit and try the new habit on for size. You could, for example, try eating local for 30 days, or not watch TV for 30 days. Who knows? Maybe some of those healthy habits will stick around.

Google “30-day project” and you’ll see a number of fellow bloggers with inspiring ideas. Even if you already have a few in mind, seeing what other people try can help you reach outside of your box and really challenge yourself. Even better: Invite your own friends to participate so you can learn from and support each other and swap stories about your experiences.

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2. Learn about the world

Come on, be honest: how much global news do you really consume? Reading a summary site like The Week can be a great way to a get glimpse into the stories making headlines around the world, as can any number of news publications.

That said, the best way to really learn about the world is from its many people. Doing so doesn’t have to mean stuffing all of your possessions into a backpack and hitting the road (though that’s nice if you can do it, too!). Instead, make full use of the internet and social media. Read articles and add comments to travel blogs like Gadling. Narrow in on a region of interest, start doing your research on WikiTravel, and post questions on the Lonely Planet Travel Forums or even on Quora. Or, for a social network and travel blog site all in one, head to Matador Travel, where you can connect with people worldwide and learn about new communities while also doing a little teaching about your own region.

3. Learn how to be more entrepreneurial

From the corporate workspace to the home office, just about all of us can use entrepreneurial skills these days. After all, in a tough economy, bosses reward go-getters, and “innovator” is the buzzword of the day. But how can you learn these skills without enrolling in an MBA program or throwing your hat into a risky startup’s ring?

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The best course of action is to find a thought leader within a niche that interests you and learn from them. Thankfully, with the popularity of corporate blogs and social media feeds, this is easier to do than ever. Let’s say, for example, that you love Stonyfield Yogurt—both the brand itself and its online presence. Just a browse through the corporate blog will tell you all you need to know, as long as you look closely. Want to learn how to draw readers more deeply into your site? Look at the “Recent Posts” sidebar. Want to tempt readers into reading your full post? Study the wording of the Stonyfield blog’s headlines, the kinds of photos they choose for the top of the post, and how they break up text throughout the page.

Even more helpful is when a brand commissions white papers and case studies and posts them online. Take a peek, for example, at Amazon’s Website Case Studies; an exhaustive look into just how real customers have benefited from Amazon’s products. Here, you’ll learn how to make the most of online tools that can help you launch or maintain your businesses or side projects from one of the most successful businesses around. If it worked for them, why shouldn’t it work for you?
When a thought leader provides insight into their business, grab it!

4. Learn how to make something new

Last but certainly not least, there’s much to be learned from the tinkerers of the world. Step entirely out of your everyday comfort zone by making something totally new. Learn how to hack your Ikea furniture. Turn everyday objects into a robotic arm. Follow lifestyle blogs, or just head to Pinterest for a little creative inspiration. With so many bloggers posting their experiments online and even how-tos, there’s no excuse not to give DIY a try!

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Search for a Maker group to find even more in person support.

The Takeaway

So much of our everyday work lives rely on repetitive skills. Learning something new, no matter how seemingly minor, will refresh your brain and give you a sense of renewal and inspiration.
Make sure to check out the new daily articles on LifeHack for even more tips!

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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