A large part of achieving both personal and professional success is learning new skills. All skills take time to learn, but you can simplify the process by setting goals and breaking the skill up into smaller steps. Practice every day and hold yourself accountable so you’ll be able to add that new skill to your repertoire in no time.
EditSelecting Your Skill
Think about skills that would benefit you. You may feel more motivated to learn a new skill if you pick something you think will benefit you in your work or daily life. Ask yourself if there are any skills that would help you get ahead at work, help you at school, or give you an advantage in your everyday life.
Skills that many people find useful for their education and career include learning a new language, programming, photography, writing, public speaking, data analysis, and cooking.
List skills you would enjoy learning. Make a list of 5-10 skills that you think you’d enjoy learning. These don’t have to benefit your job or schoolwork directly, although they can. Just think about things you’ve found interesting or that you’ve always wanted to learn how to do.
For example, have you always wanted to make your own scarf? If you have, then knitting or crocheting may be an enjoyable activity. Or, perhaps you want to learn how to play a new sport or take up a hobby like doing card tricks.
Calculate how much time you can devote to learning. Think about how much time you can devote on a daily or weekly basis to learning your new skill. If you don’t have a lot of extra time, a lower-commitment skill like learning to drive a manual car might be a good skill. If you have more time, a skill that takes a lot of practice, such as learning how to play an instrument, might be right for you.
Pick a skill that you actually have time for right now. Picking a difficult skill and hoping you can learn it when you don’t have much time to practice is more likely to lead to you abandoning the skill.
Focus on a single skill at a time. Pay attention to learning one skill at a time rather than trying to master multiple skills at once. If you divide your attention, it will take longer for you to master your desired skill.
This doesn’t mean you can’t learn lots of new skills. Just take the time to thoroughly learn the basics of one new skill before you move onto the next one.
Set a realistic goal. Your goal doesn’t need to represent your endpoint with the skill. It should, however, encourage you to grow and push yourself as you learn your new skill. If, for example, you want to learn web design, your goal may be to build yourself an online portfolio that you design from scratch.
Don’t make your goal too lofty to start. If you want to learn to cook, don’t start with the initial goal of a 3-course meal. Instead, focus on learning how to make 1 dish really well. After you learn basic skills, you can learn more recipes and build up toward that meal.
Break your goal down into steps. Even reasonable goals can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Start by breaking your goal down into small steps. The exact number of steps you’ll need will depend on your goal.
Think about your steps like lessons. Each step should be small enough that you can achieve it in 1-2 lessons, but not so small that it’s not enough for a lesson unto itself. Remember, each step builds toward your goal. They may feel small now, but they’ll accumulate.
For example, if you’re learning photography, a good step would be learning how to adjust the settings on your camera. This can usually be learned easily, but it’s a bigger task than just learning to turn the flash on and off, which can usually be done in just a few seconds. Then, you can learn how to use light in photography, take still photos, take action photos, and edit photographs, for instance.
Choose a platform that fits your learning style. There are online tutorials, in-person classes, books, articles, and videos that can teach you all kinds of skills. Think about what learning platforms best enable you to absorb and apply new information.
If you’re a visual learner, for example, try video tutorials instead of reading a text-only book or listening to a podcast on the subject.
Think about what is most conducive to your new skill, too. Learning a new language using only books, for example, may not be the best choice because the text alone doesn’t give you a good idea of word pronunciation and accents in everyday speech.
Find a mentor who is an expert in your skill to guide you through the process. The best tool in your journey to build a new skill is to find an expert to tutor you and help guide your progress. Reach out to an expert in your skill and set up a face-to-face meeting to talk to them about possible mentor opportunities.
In some fields, mentoring is a formal process, while in other fields, it’s more organic. Do some research online to see how others learning your desired skill found a mentor.
For example, if you want to learn to use Microsoft Excel, ask a friend or family member who is familiar with the program to help you learn how to use it. If you want to learn to windsurf, you can hire an instructor with a lot of experience to teach you how to do it.
Set deadlines for yourself. Deadlines will help keep you accountable and help you stay on track. If you set a deadline without an external commitment, make sure you invest something in your deadline to keep you moving forward.
If, for example, you say you’re going to be able to conjugate 10 verbs in Spanish by next week, reward yourself when you accomplish your goal. For instance, treat yourself to lunch or spend 1 hour doing something you love without feeling guilty.
If you want to make an external commitment for your deadline, you could try something like signing up for an open mic night to hold you to your goal of learning to play a song on the guitar.
EditBuilding Your Skill
Learn about the fundamentals of your skill. The first thing to do is understand the basics of the skill you want to learn. For instance, if you want to master tai chi, read about the history and development of this martial art. If you want to learn to change your own oil, spend some time learning about the function of oil in an engine and check out a diagram of your specific vehicle’s engine bay.
Take courses and tutorials in your skill. Classes, workshops, and tutorials are great ways to help you build your skill and network with others learning the same skill. If you want consistent formal instruction, look for classes at your local community college, community center, or professional organization.
You can also check with professional organizations, hobby groups, local businesses, and other organizations to see if they offer workshops or tutorials in your skill. These are usually 1-2 day events that help you focus on building a single aspect of your skill.
For example, if you are learning to cook, a local specialty food store may have a workshop on learning to cook make-ahead meals or cooking for college freshmen.
Start with the first step and move on as you master each portion. The only way to learn is by doing, so start trying out your new skill. Use the resources available to you, whether that may be reading a tutorial or having an expert walk you through the steps. Complete each step and ensure you understand it fully before moving on.
For instance, if your goal is to learn to type, begin by learning the home keys. Once you’ve mastered those, move on to the keys you type with your right hand, then the keys you type with your left hand.
Ask your mentor for help if you get stuck. Learning a new skill can be frustrating, but don’t give up when you hit a roadblock. Instead, seek help from an expert. Your mentor can explain what’s going wrong and help you correct the process so that you continue to make progress.
Practice a little every day. Building any new skill takes time, so you must dedicate yourself to this endeavor. After you’ve learned a portion of your new skill, take time every day to practice what you’ve learned. This should be separate from the time you take to learn a new portion of your skill.
For example, if you’re learning to play the piano, set aside an hour a day to practice: 30 minutes to review chords you’ve already learned and an additional 30 minutes to learn new chords.
The exact amount of time you’ll need to practice each day will depend on the skill your learning, as well as your personal learning style.
The best way to learn is to do. Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are continually physically engaged.
Accomplish a Goal
Achieve Your Full Potential
EditSources and Citations
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