When hiring, do you look for candidates who continue to learn regardless of their career heights? Do you set the same standard for yourself as well?
When Engineers are switching from Individual Contributors to Managerial roles, it becomes much more challenging to get that continuous learning approach going on. First, an overwhelming amount of new things already fills the learning glass. But later on, it is the manager’s schedule (vs. maker’s schedule) change that is often a significant impediment. So how to stay an effective continuous learner while wearing a manager’s hat?
You’ve read it right! You don’t need to learn all those five new frameworks out of their alpha releases last week. Instead, focus more, and become more strategic on what would be the single most valuable skill to learn right now? It is quite likely that your mental capacity got seriously reduced for yet another item to consider, so limit stretching it further with unreasonable learning goals. Also, choose the timing wisely, and put forward such learning opportunities that you can put into practice sooner rather than later.
Now, once the topic you want to focus on is crystalized, time to get tactical about it. Never leave learning on the “it goes how it goes” path ever again. That’s a highway to not doing it at all in no time. Instead, set yourself at least a high-level plan of how you will do it. Split the book into chapters to conquer. Take training in parts. Have a dedicated day to go through everything in one go. The approach doesn’t matter - as long as you plan and set specific learning progress goals for yourself, you will feel committed to making time for it.
Also, learning is significant for your improvement and even staying relevant, therefore, don’t make plans to leverage low-energy periods. For example, do not plan to go deep into learning on Friday afternoon unless this is the time you’re fresh, focused, and full of energy.
I’m not going to break any news here: distractions are the killer of focus. So disconnect as much as possible when up for learning, as with any other activity that requires deep thinking. Silence the notifications, and get away from the computer. Don’t use the phone. Isolate yourself if this is what it takes. For me personally, it means not using a computer at all. That’s why I just cannot read any books on the computer – the temptation is just too close to my fingertips (I know, I know). Get yourself a paper book if necessary. Use one of the techniques that place you into deep work mode, e.g., Pomodoro. You know how to do it!
Welcome to a dedicated paragraph to mention something we all already know! That physical activities make us better thinkers. Issues to focus? Get off that couch!
Get Your Mind Ready
You’ll have some prior knowledge about every topic you take, sometimes even quite deep. However, I invite you to take all materials with genuine curiosity and humility. Even if you disagree entirely with the author’s opinion, why are there such differences? Is there an angle when their approach is better? Maybe there’s a historical context (thinking about you, Mythical Man-Month) that’s interesting and can bring a valuable lesson?
Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality. Bruce Lee
It’s a myth. There is no proof learning styles boost your learning results in any tangible way. Read about this here or here or here (video). So stop limiting yourself with “I’m a visual learner,” and rather find a combination that works for a particular subject.
And finally, engaging in a learning community is a fantastic way to stay motivated and expand your interpretation of the subject even further. That’s why I’m such a fan of book clubs, where people meet to discuss a book they’re all reading. I run one myself. A book club encourages discipline, deepens social bonds, and broadens the understanding of the material for everyone participating.
The engagement doesn’t necessarily have to be a club - this can be anything else, from online forums to a private discussion with your peer. The key is to exercise that just recently gained knowledge, discuss, articulate, and put those concepts and key points out there in the open using your own words.
Let’s learn! If you have some difficulties with where to start, please check out my recommendations for books in my Library.
Photo by Emily