How to make the most of learning

The late US President John F Kennedy pointed out that ‘leadership and learning are indispensible to each other.’ And there can be no doubt that learning is a life-long necessity in today’s changing world. And whether it’s technical, management, interpersonal or personal skills you’re learning, you need to put what you’re learning to use. Here are some tips for more effective and efficient learning:

  • Reading isn’t a race against the clock—How fast can I get through this? When you’re reading, take the time every few paragraphs to stop and put what you’ve read into your own words. (If you have trouble, read it again.) Then think about what the information means to you and how you can put the information to use.
  • When you’re reading up on a topic, say risk management or people management, think about what you already know about that topic first.
  • When you attend a training program or a lecture, or read a book, list the ideas that make sense to you and that you intend to apply.
  • Don’t scatter your efforts by trying to learn and apply everything at once. Select one or two improvement areas at a time.
  • Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and try out new skills, and know that when you try out a new skill for the first time, it doesn’t have to be (and probably won’t be) perfect.
  • Help what you’ve learned stick by explaining it to someone else, for example, to someone in your study group, a colleague or a team member.
  • Think about why what you’re learning is important to you or why it will be useful to you.
  • Set learning goals and keep track of your progress.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Remove distractions.
  • Be selective in the sources you learn from. For example, as we all know, some Internet sites offer reliable information and others are highly suspect; When learning from the Internet, consider three things: 1) who the author is and their motivation for writing that information; 2) how reliable the information is, e.g. whether its based on scientific evidence and whether similar information is given by other reliable sources; 3) how well the site explains the information and whether the information fits with any prior knowledge you have or with information from other reliable sites.

Questions for discussion

How effective and efficient are you at learning? Which of these tips do you intend to try first?