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Extra time for learning? Here Are the Facts.
Time is our most precious resource.
“I just don’t have enough time.” – we’ve all said it before. Even when we are well-organized, sometimes it’s hard to find free time. We all have 24 hour a day – 168 hours in a week. We spend them working, having time with family, friends and relationships, and sleeping. It turns out that each one of us have approximate 1 to 3 hours a day of personal free time. That’s horrible!
You cannot multiply time, but you can use it better. To grow as an individual, you need to learn new things everyday. How to do it, when your time is that limited? Fortunately, there are some methods you can apply to make the most of every minute. I present you simple techniques I use, to spare some time everyday. When you are not moving forward, you just move backwards (just like in the video from Casey Neistat).
In my opinion learning is the most important thing you should do in free time. Learning is a hugely important process of growing as an individual. If you want to achieve success – you need to learn something every day.
Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. – Pele
But when to learn? Our time is that limited! When life gets busy or when we don’t want to feel guilty about skipping something, we need to change our behaviours and focus on priorities.
What are your priorities?
“It’s not what we say is a priority, but what we actually DO that’s a priority.” – J. D. Roth
How you choose to spend your time defines your priorities. To set your priorities you need to put away tasks that are less important right now. Your priorities, whether you say so or not, needs to be done now! Let’s say you want to read a book, but you feel your time is limited. At first, find out what you put in front of reading: is it is watching TV, surfing the Web to get pointless informations? Change that.
One of the most successful tactic I’ve learned from article Are You As Busy As You Think? is changing words “I don’t have time.” to “It’s not a priority.”. Using different vocabulary can change your mental mind (perfect examples about the power of the words is in Vocabulary of the Rich People post).
This is a powerful tool and you need to use it wisely. It works the best only when you set good priorities! When you overdo it, you can end up with procrastinating tasks. Your perspective shifts in an instant when looking at life’s challenges this way:
“I don’t have time to clean my room” becomes “cleaning isn’t a priority.”.
“I don’t have time to cook” becomes “cooking isn’t a priority”.
“I don’t have time to travel” becomes “traveling isn’t a priority“.
“I don’t have time to take out the trash” becomes “garbage isn’t a priority“.
Don’t misunderstand the message. Cooking, cleaning, travel, doing the exercises… these are are important and you need to do it. The idea is to switch the tasks you can put away for later, and focus on the most important ones right now. In my opinion – learning is one of the most important things in life. It also helps to release stress.
Set your priorities
One method I use on the daily basis is a method from Time Management book written by Brian Tracy. I start with to-do list. I write every task I need to do each day in the paper (you can do it on computer if you like), and think, what is the most important task. I put the letters A, B, C, D… Once A is finished, I go to B and so on. Even when task C is the simplest and takes less time to do it – I always finish A and B first. Sometimes it is good to combine tasks together (like cooking and learning etc.). Time management skills are really important these days.
Don’t make excuses
There are lots of excuses people make for not progressing. I could also find enough excuses for my situation. I work full time, I have 2 kids and a lot of side projects that I’ve focused on. Sometimes I even help my friends and family with graphic design, and programming. I also learn German language and improve my programming and business skills. I’ don’t want to mention about time consuming, regular stuff, like eating, sleeping, traveling, shopping, doing exercises, walking, washing, cleaning etc. That’s a lot. You probably know this by your experiences.
Still, I can manage my projects well and I have time to learn something new every day. Maybe you situation is close to mine, maybe you are in worst position… but remember: no matter how busy you are, you still have some time left! Lack of time is just another excuse.
Make yourself a good environment
Everything that surrounds you have a huge impact on your life. It’s very important to make yourself a good environment to learn. It’s hard to learn when everyone wants you to do something: the kids are running, you are in a crowded place, being distracted by lights, TV, loud music and so on. For me, the best environment to learn is when no one is around. I prefer to go on the walk with earphones or just go cleaning and listening to something. You can have clear mind this way. It is important to understand, what you are learning, and what type of environment suits you well. Depends what, and how you want to learn – make your comfort zone, or just use every free minute to get in that zone.
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things, like chilling on the couch, checking email over and over, chatting in social media, watching videos, etc. You know you should be working, but you just don’t have power to start.
Why people procrastinate? The answer is simple: because this is in our nature. We all craving for happiness. When the things we make are hard, or we need to let go of something – we are starting to have mental pain. This is normal. After you understand that principle, it will be easier to change bad behaviors and start learning faster.
“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” – Martin Luther
Fortunately, overcoming your procrastination is easy to do when you put your mind to it. Don’t let procrastination take over your life!
Kill the time killers
The easiest way to use your time better is to eliminate pointless activities from your life. When you are in IT business, you should know #1 rule of Lean Software Development – eliminate waste. I used to spent time watching videos on Youtube or just chilling out. Some of us likes to watch TV all day, or play way too many computer games. It is normal, because it generates pleasure (this is a Pain Pleasure Principle). Quitting bad behaviors will make you feel much better and more relaxed. There are so many things that people do that are actually just wasting time. Do you really need to follow every match of your favorite football team? There are plenty of sites with information about getting things done and being more efficient with your time. This is an area of a lot of people’s lives that could be improved. It’s amazing how much time you can find when you minimize the things that aren’t important to make room for the things that are.
Don’t waste time
Everyone has lots of free time, but they don’t realize it! If you ever get in a queue or went home from work – you can learn something if you have any kind of pocketbook, smartphone or tablet. If you are driving your car to work then you can put on the CD / MP3 course. If you are just waiting for someone or something to happen – don’t waste this time standing. Just a simple change of behavior will make your life a lot better. Don’t just stand and look around, send text message or just stare at your smartphone trying to kill the time. Instead of this waiting being a waste of your time, it can be your study time! Maybe you thing this is just a couple of seconds / minutes, but overall you lost several hours each week!
We reach the main topic of this post. To grow as an individual, you need to learn every day… But how to learn, when You really don’t have time? What to do to have more time for learning? I present you my 10 proven ways to learn when Your time is limited.
1. Get up early or stay up late to learn
You can have your Hour of Power late at night or early in the morning, while everyone sleeps. No one distracts you, it’s quiet outside – it is just a perfect learning opportunity.
I encourage you to do either get up early or stay up late. This extra time must be dedicated for learning purposes only. Because no one is around – pay attention for the distractions. Put EVERYTHING away and don’t procrastinate. Don’t watch Youtube or check e-mail. It’s only you and the material you need to focus on.
Even when you save one hour a day this way – you receive 7 hours a week extra. That’s 2 555 hours a year! You cannot find a course nor a study that lasts that long! You want to be a professional at something? This method is definitely worth using.
People can be divided by their best hours. They overtime develop work and learning habits. You can be either a Lark (morning person), or Night Owl (night person). Depends what time you feel alive and your mood is the best – you can start to learn. Staing up late is good for people who uses right side of the brain while their work (like designers, fit people / gymnasts, bloggers and so on). They can learn even when TV or music is playing.
When you need to focus on the task, or the task needs your analytical skills to complete, it is better to get up early. If you have kids or tough job / material to learn (developers, writers, programmers, IT specialists, math students etc.) – i encourage you to get up early. You will be more “fresh” and less tired this way.
I was a night owl all my life. I’ve had my own company, and I could work as a freelancer every time I wanted. I didn’t need to get up for work next day. I really enjoyed staying up late and work on my projects. Night is so quiet, no distractions occurs plus you can do watever you want… You can just focus on everything 100%.
Today I am more a Lark – thanks to one of the speech from TED Conference, shared below. Early mornings are better for me, to concentrate. This is because at night I am often too tired to be 100% focus.
2. Learn time management skills
How to manage time well? There are dozens of publications about the subject. I encourage you to learn time management skills, like: creating to-do list, keeping job organized, dividing tasks into smaller groups, planning before doing, delegating tasks and so on.
In my opinion time management skills are one of the most important skills, you need to learn. You will be more productive. Don’t underestimate the power of time management. After some practice, you will prioritize tasks and do things more efficient. Your life will be better, because:
Time Management is Life Management – Brian Tracy
3. Learning by doing multitasking
Multitasking is one of Time Management methods. Multitasking means doing more than one thing in the same time. When you want to learn, you can do it when you eat, relax, doing sports, standing on the query or driving car. Multitasking helps you to use time more efficiently.
When you are jogging – just plug your earphones and play some personal development or finances eBooks. When you are driving your car – just simply put your CD / DVD or MP3 into recorder and play.
You can listen to audiobooks everywhere. It doesn’t cost you a dime. You can learn amazing stuff in just few of minutes a day, and doing something else.
From my experience, best time for learning was every time, when I went jogging. I put up earphones and just ran for 40-60 minutes. It was healthy for mind a body. My few business projects ideas starts this way. When you have clear mind, you can adopt knowledge better.
I use multitasking every time, when I’m cleaning the house. I put on earphones and I had almost one hour more for learning. Since I need to put my baby to preschool 5 times a week – car becomes my place to learn. I drive approximate 30-40 minutes, twice a day. This can generate me +1 hour extra for learning (you need to be careful when you learn in your car – safety first. It’s good to listen audiobooks that are less distracting, like personal development speeches or conferences, Do not focus on analytical things. You need to be focus on the road).
4. Learning while you work
Your day job is a great place to learn as well. At work, You have certain tasks to do every day. It doesn’t matter how you do it – job needs to be done. If you have a physical job – you can listen to audiobooks all day. If you work in a corporation you can find and learn something new from the Web, when you taking short brakes.
Let me tell you my story. When I was self-employed I focused only on accomplishing projects. I had so many tasks to do as a freelance graphic designer and developer. I just needed to learn time management to be more productive. Sometimes my to-do list contains 7 projects a day! It was unreal to do 1 project in on hour! I stayed up late to finish everything. Time management helped me a lot. Maybe the salary was good, but hard times I struggle was mine…
Few years later I worked as a graphic designer in printing industry. Our team uses some automation scripts in Illustrator. After creating projects, we just click on the button and the design was print-ready. It save us 20 minutes each day. This was a mind blowing idea for me – one script can save you 20 minutes a day every day? WOW, Unfortunately, we had so many projects we didn’t have time to think about further automation scripts (plus I didn’t know how create a computer program in Illustrator Scripting).
My third job was even more time-consuming. I was a head graphic designer in large ceramic tile industry. The work I need to do overwhelms me. To finish my tasks – I needed to stay up late or even work from home. I used 4 different computers located in 3 places inside 2 facilities. At first, I went on each place at least 2 times a day. It took me more than one hour a day just driving and walking. I’ve figured out, how to put virtual desktops on each of my computers. This way I could do 3 things from one computer! I even configure all the PCs, to be manageable from my home. This way I could create a tile design on one computer, render 3D scene in another two (render took 2-5 hours a day + Photoshop finishing touches to accomplish!) + I send files to large color printers for the production. You think this is too much for one person? I think so too.
I loved to learn every day and hard work doesn’t bother me at all. My time management skills helps me a lot, but after my first child’s birth I couldn’t put that much effort at work anymore. Fortunately!
I’ve changed job to something totally different. Since I was good not only on graphic design (I also know Microsoft software, like Access, Word, Excel and programming like PHP, VBA), I’ve started working as a production planner in big company. I still have lots of respect for technology I could see and learn here. My first months were tough. Colleagues shown me, how they plan the production. It looks really hard. I quickly find out, that some things production planners do every day, could be done using automation scripts. I just needed to create system for counting numbers. My first software was ready after 1 month of work. It change the way of working. Right now – after major improvements – we can save up to 3 hours a day more free time, to focus on other tasks. It’s funny how simple idea can generate that much effort. Now I try to automate everything I can. As I mentioned before: It doesn’t matter how you do it – job needs to be done. So, why spend some time at something, that can be done automatically?
5. Learning by letting go of something
We always choose, what will we do each day. To have more free time, you sometimes need to let go of the stuff you like. Prioritize your tasks.
Think about the situation: you just need to learn new language as soon as possible, because you have important business trip. You are a big fan of basketball and important game is on TV tomorrow. What will you choose? Learning or chilling out? If fun (basketball) is more important than learning (language), you are in a bad position!
Of course you need to have distance on everything. Don’t put everything aside. You need to leverage learning and relaxing, to not going crazy!
6. Learning by changing environment
As I mentioned before, good environment is crucial. It’s hard to learn, when you baby is crying, or when you are in loud, crowded place. There are too many distractions. To focus, you need to clear your mind. Pick up the place where you are the most comfortable. Try to be in a good mood as well. I always suggest, to have your earphones, or eBook reader everywhere you go. This way – when you do nothing important – you can always learn.
Do something more. If you want to study new language, you can change your cell phone’s language, listen to podcasts, radio or TV in foreign language. You can also find forums or books written in this language. Foreign environment is a proven way to learn new language quickly.
7. Learning before sleep and while you sleep
Try this method I’ve learned from the book Time Management by Brian Tracy. Before sleep – when you are in bed – think about problems that bothers you, or review in mind your learning material. When you are sleeping, you subconscious mind works. Give yourself couple of minutes before sleep for that ritual. You will be amazed how agile you will be.
Another method I use sometimes is sleeping with audiobook playing in the background. I use earphones or (when I am alone) play audiobooks directly from a smartphone. You can learn a little bit this way. This is not a method to learn something well, but your subconscious mind can find solutions on different problems ,without your consciousness.
8. Learning doing exercises
Exercises are very important! To stay healthy, be in good shape physically and mentally, you just need to work out. Your body needs to grow, just the same as your mind. You feel endorphins burst after every workout. After exercises you have more energy all day. You can stay even a little longer at night, because your metabolism works better.
When you exercise in low intensity (cardio), you can play your favorite learning material from your cell phone (when running outside) or just watch conferences or tutorials directly from PC (when you are running in treadmill). It’s not possible to learn when you have hard trainings, like gym training, high intensity interval training, martial arts lesson and so on.
9. Learning by asking questions.
Always ask questions. Don’t pretend you know everything. Ask, and you shall receive – we all know that. But why we are afraid to ask questions?
School teaches us, that we need to find solution for our problem in books, or ask teacher (not other people). We find facts, not opinions there. Sometimes facts are not enough to have full knowledge of the subject. To know solution, you need to know someone else’s opinion. Different experiences and knowledge can get your new point of view. That’s why forums, FAQ’s, messages, DIY sites and social media are good places to learn. Use them frequently. One of the best things in sites like that is that you don’t need to be 24/7 present. You just ask a question and come back later to receive answers. You can review it every time you need to.
10. Learning from other people
Every person you’ve ever met is an expert in some aspect. He can be either IT specialist, or just full-time mom. Everyone has his own story. You can learn from everyone. Don’t underestimate anyone.
Asking someone can give answers to your problem. You need to learn from your mistakes, but smart people learn from other’s mistakes as well. You can avoid some of them this way.
Ask as many questions you want, but not the dumb and annoying ones. Don’t be pushy. When speaking face to face you need to respect other person. If someone don’t want to talk with you in a certain subject, don’t ask anymore. Always use a Win – Win strategy.
To learn more complex stuff or to achieve your goal, find your mentor. Mentor can tell you, what to do and what you shouldn’t do. This person was in your position before, and he knew what he done wrong. Listen to his words carefully.You can have more mentors, or follow extraordinary people to find out, how they live, what mental attitude they have and what they do earlier in life, that leads them to huge success.
To have more time for learning, just use methods I’d presented you in this blog post. These are just an ideas you can apply in your life. I encourage you to pick at least one or two ideas and apply them for couple of days. You will be amazed, how much progress you will make over longer period of time. Don’t rush. Remember, to be in a good mental state you need to have some fun also. You should – but you don’t need – to use these methods strictly every day. Sometimes changes of plans occurs: you (or someone from your family) got sick, you will get out of work late etc. Depends how much you want to learn new material – try to learn it every day.
If you have questions about this topic or want to share your experiences / leave comment – don’t hesitate to do so!