I recently read an article suggesting people should take an hour a day to learn something or practice a skill that will improve job performance or make them more marketable. Imagine how quickly you could improve at anything if you spent an hour a day focusing on it.
After reading the article, I was frustrated by the number of comments suggesting the author must be living in a dream world. “Where will I find an hour?” “You must not have kids. If you did, you’d never have any free time for this sort of thing.” Each of them missed the point completely.
I wonder if these same people watch television? They certainly have time to surf the web and type comments. If they have time for those things, they have time to work on improving themselves and their skills.
The trick is that a person doesn’t have to start off with an hour per day. Start small. The benefits from focused practice are cumulative. Even 15 minutes a day will show measurable benefit. Musicians have known this for years.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas.
1. Brainstorm a list of things you would like to accomplish, and skills you will need to accomplish them. Struggling for ideas? Look for things you enjoy about your job, or things you’ve seed others do that look enjoyable. Use this list to find articles, books, videos, etc. that can help you improve.
2. Read, read, read. If you have reading materials with you (in a folder, on your phone, on a tablet, etc.) you can use any spare moment to work on your skills and knowledge.
3. Books on CD (or MP3). Listening to audiobooks is a great way to turn commute time into self-improvement time. I’ve personally used my commute to learn new skills, explore new ideas, and study for tests.
Can’t find audio books on your subject? Make them. When I needed to study for a certification exam, I used my phone to create “audio flash cards.” I simply read the question, left a pause, then read the answer. When driving, I would listen to the question and try to give the answer during the pause between the question and answer.
4. Regularly seek out feedback. When you’ve completed something, take a few minutes to review your own performance and look for ways you could have done it more efficiently. Then write them down. Even better… Ask your boss, co-workers, or customers for suggestions about how your task might have been accomplished more efficiently or effectively. Again, write down what you learn
5. Keep an improvement journal. At the end of each day, try to come up with one area where you might improve your skills or performance. Write it down in your journal, and write one or two ways to either practice the skill or learn more about the topic. You will notice that just by capturing these ideas your skills will increase and your performance will improve.
There are millions more ways to use small amounts of time to focus on improving yourself. The important thing is not the amount of time you spend. Rather the trick is to pick something and try it. If it doesn’t work, try something else.
Above all, stop thinking about it and do something! “A plan without action isn’t worth squat!”