Photo by Paul Schafer on Unsplash

Routines are everything.

As humans, we are very habitual beings — some of us follow our schedules closer than others — but at the end of the day, we all have our routines that we stick to. Having a structure gives us a feeling of safety, comfort and familiarity. We wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, brush our teeth, go to work. We’ve been doing this hundreds and thousands of times in our lives and we are pretty good at it because we repeat these steps in mostly the same order day by day with just a few exceptions.

When we are at school or university we make studying and revision a part of our daily or weekly routine with the motivation to pass our exams and hopefully get good grades as a result of that but once we transition into work life, education is usually not something we actively focus on. Sure, there are workshops and trainings that further develop our skills or try to teach us new ones but they usually last a few days or weeks max and then it’s up to every individual to repeat the newly learned patterns and establish behavioural habits out of them. The good thing: You can establish a of educating yourself on your own every single day by reserving just a few minutes of your day. If your first reaction is “Well, but my schedule is so packed that I can’t find the time” — you’re wrong.

“If you don’t have time for the small things, you won’t have time for the big things.” — Richard Branson

You can really start as small as you want to or as much as your schedule allows you to. Set up a reminder in your calendar to nudge you to learn something every day. Just start. There’s no timeline or plan needed, just start on one day and make sure that you continue the next day and the day after that and before you know it, you’ve successfully taught your mind to repeat this behaviour. Everything you need to learn about whatever interests you is literally out there, you just have to take the initiative to start exploring.

Here are a few things I learned that helped me really maximise the outcome of regularly taking the time to educate myself and seek out new topics that I’m interested in:

  1. I simply start by reading ONE article, blog post, excerpt in the morning before I start work. You’d be surprised how much information is packed into a 3–4 minute read on Medium. The nice thing about this is that YOU picked the topic so you’re already emotionally and mentally invested in spending time — even if it’s just a few minutes — on gaining knowledge and deep-diving into the topic.
  2. Once I’ve read enough about the topic and gained a certain understanding of it, it’s time to convert these learnings into actions: I usually start a personal project but you can also seek out peers and talk to them about your learnings, write a blog post — the key takeaway here is that you do something with your newly gained knowledge and don’t just read and forget. By applying you are automatically solidifying your learnings.
  3. I then evaluate the feedback that I receive on what I shared. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, there’s always something to be learned from receiving comments and opinions on your work/the conversations you had with peers and so on. Don’t take it personally, learn from it and move on but actively listen to what people have to say, don’t share and forget. Take their perspectives into account and reflect on your learnings.
  4. Whenever I stumble upon a topic that peaks my interest, I note it down. I have a list which I constantly update with areas of interest. This doesn’t have to be ordered on structured in any way. When I finish with one topic, I go back to the list and start back at step 1.

By establishing these patterns you will ensure that you are constantly taking on new topics and building your knowledge on your interest. This can be really rewarding for obvious reasons but also incredibly motivating since you are using very short but valuable stints of your time to teach and develop yourself without having to take bigger chunks of time out of your already busy schedule.

One more thing:
I’m not a big fan of having an app for everything but in this case a habit-building app can really help with this process. We’re on our phones 24 hours a day anyway so why not let our devices remind us to do something good for once instead of just grabbing our attention all the time. Whatever suits you best.

I would love to hear your take on this. Do you have different techniques that you use? How does your schedule look like? What are the biggest learnings you’ve gained?

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