Having had been a student for the past two and half years completing a Diploma of Graphic Design and thinking I was done with study for a while, I decided to go back to Uni earlier this year to complete a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Media Studies. Working in the e-learning industry, and being surrounded by it every day (on top of what I’m learning at school), really got me thinking about just how much learning has become an integral part of who I am. Looking back on my journey so far, my learning habits have changed so much, coming a long way in just a few short years. Some of the habits I have picked up have seemed like a lot of work, while others less so. All continue to evolve as I look ahead with still so much to come.
I incorporate some form of learning into my day, every day. While there is the learning that I engage in every day, for both school and work, getting into the habit of learning something new each day just for the fun of it has been an eye-opening habit to get into. We’ve all heard of the one-hour rule of learning per day, but I really don’t believe it has to be so complex. Even a few minutes each day can make a difference if it’s sparking those ‘Aha!’ moments, challenging you, and perhaps even changing your perspective on something.
Nobody tells you this, but learning can be damn hard.
Seek diversity. Someone once told me learning is like food — if you eat the same food every day, you won’t reap the benefits of a well-balanced diet. To me learning is about expanding my mindset and seeking out the bigger picture. I read articles, watch online content, track down interesting books, and attend talks I find interesting. It may seem obvious, but so many of us are creatures of habit that solely rely on what’s in front of us and what’s within arm’s reach. While this can be great when time-poor, I also believe in looking at the bigger picture of my learning through making a concentrated effort to invest in it and track down different sources to feed my interests. I admit this can be a bit of a challenge, but being exposed to different viewpoints, perspectives, and information is only a good thing to build out well-rounded knowledge about something.
I cut myself some slack. Nobody tells you this, but learning can be damn hard. To really learn something can be one of the hardest things you do. But it’s also one of the most rewarding. The feeling when I’ve begun to really understand something, relate it to what I already know, and then almost ‘seeing’ those pieces fall and click into place makes it all worth it. But before the reward comes what I also call the ‘dark side’. The pressure, the overwhelm, the feeling that you can never have enough psychological bandwidth to cram all this information in. This is where I have to pull back, and tell myself I can’t learn everything the first time — it’s virtually impossible to learn everything there is to know about something the first time and retain it all. There will also be days of un-focus, mental exhaustion, overwhelm, and anxiety, and days where no matter my intentions life will get in the way. Cutting myself some slack and working with what I have is the best way to keep on track to make it more manageable.
Write it all down. Not just notes directly related to what I’m learning (though these are important!). Writing about the experience itself, the thoughts, feelings, and impressions on what I’m actually going through with my learning. It may sound like a lot of work but I was always that kid who kept some sort of journal, and it wasn’t until recently that it clicked that I could do the same thing with my learning. And its helped me. It has increased my self awareness, allows me to track where I’m up to, plan my next steps, smooth out any hiccups, and articulate what I can do to improve on an on-going basis. And most important of all, it helps the learning stick.
Have fun with it. This is where the creative side of my brain comes out, especially when I don’t understand an idea or a concept. So I do the only thing I know how to be — creative. I play with it, tinker with it, pick it up and put it back down again. Return to it. Analyse it, turn it over, pull it apart then put it back together. What other purpose does it serve? Where else does it fit? Question it, ask it why? Why not? This is the space where I’ve realised you learn. Really learn. Not what I’ve been told, or what I’ve read, but where I create my own experience. Be that person who asks questions — question everything. If it doesn’t come, I’ve had to learn not to force it — I’m learning to trust it will come when I least expect it. Especially if I’ve found myself in a conversation where I’ve had to explain it — more often than not I remember and know a lot more than I think. And the golden rule — I’ve had to be patient and cut myself some slack.
What learning habits work for you?