How to Learn a Little Every Day

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Image via Creative Commons, Moyan Brenn’s Flickr photostream. (Source)

Something can be said for knowing a little bit about a lot of things. Being an everyman or everywoman can propel you to a more efficient, productive and fulfilled personal and professional life. Whether it’s keeping up on current events, a new hobby or interest or simply any new idea, taking a small amount of time to learn something every day is a great way to add to your personal knowledgebase.

Incorporating bits of learning into your every day experience puts you on a path to lifelong learning. Lifelong learning keeps you engaged in your environment, builds your knowledgebase, ensures that you use your mind, provides a sense of accomplishment and simply makes you feel good. The knowledge you gain, tools you get and experiences you have with learning a little bit everyday all work together to achieve real personal advancement.

Here are a few thoughts on how to incorporate learning a new thing each day into your routine.

Make it part of your routine and give it 20 minutes
Are you a “getting things done” kind of person? Devote a small amount of time each day, 20 minutes, to reading some new article or book chapter or watching a video. On average we are all doing way too much in our daily experience. However, a great way to feel good about your day is to start off with an accomplishment by learning something new, exercising or completing a work task. You might try all three before you start your “real” day, but let’s stick to the learning a little bit a day theme.

If you can’t start your day with a little time for learning something new, try doing it at lunch time or at the end of the day. Take an article to lunch or add a video to watch to your iPod. After you have shut down your computer for the day pull out your “learning” file and read a new article.

Think of learning a little bit in your daily routine as simple compound interest on your personal knowledgebase. If you were to put away money every day in an account that earned simple interest the balance on the account would accumulate exponentially by the daily addition of principal. The same concept works for your knowledgebase, add to it daily and your personal abilities will benefit exponentially.

Think About What Interests You and Surprise Yourself
What ideas, information or things interest you? Answer that question for a moment. Once you have your answer – find resources (hopefully free, see below) on those subjects. Organize your interests whether on paper or electronically in a way that can deliver bits of new information to you on a regular basis. For example, keep a folder of articles either physically or electronically. Pick something out of that folder and dig into it at least once a day.

By the way, web videos of skate boarders smashing through plate glass windows for the sheer fun of it, doesn’t necessarily add to your lifelong learning experience – unless you add it to the what not to do in life column. So, make sure you choose some piece of information that fits within your personal goals or might simply add value to your knowledgebase.

Once you have your interests settled – surprise yourself. At least every few days choose something to learn that may not be on the top of your list as an interest or might not even be on your list at all. These things tend to be really useful later – if not directly then indirectly. For example, I would venture that most folks reading this article are not heavily into Japanese Origami. However, twenty minutes of learning how to fold a paper swan might come in handy years later as a way to change what’s on your mind and bring some focus back into a really stressful work day.

Use free resources
Organized education can be expensive even though a necessity. However, learning a little bit everyday can be virtually free if you take the time to find valuable resources. Use the web but also understand its limitations and use your public library.

When using the web, recognize that there are incredible bits and pieces of information to learn from all over the web from established media outlets, universities, governments, and other sources. Once you found some of these resources that interest you, see if they serve up their information through Really Simple Syndication – RSS.

RSS feeds can be a great way to find little bits of new information. Practically, all e-mail programs support RSS and there are many web-based and desktop programs that also support it. An RSS reader can help you organize your “learning folder”, in fact it could be that folder.

Public libraries are an incredible source of free learning. Find your local library, get your card and take the time to find books and other information that fit your interests.

Overall, it doesn’t take long to find a small bit of useful and interesting information that you can retain.

Take notes, spend some time reviewing
Learning something new also requires you to retain all or some of what you’ve learned. You need to make the most of those 20 minutes of everyday. So, take some notes – in a journal, on the article or on a sticky note.

One of the most effective ways of making sure you retain something is by getting that piece of learning past your short term memory. A good way to do just that is by taking some action beyond reading or watching. Note taking can accomplish that by requiring your brain to process the information in another way. Gather those notes because you are going to use them later.

Once in a while, at the end of a week or month, use your 20 minutes to look back at your notes. Looking back at your notes will ensure that your knowledgebase was added to and that you have gotten past short term retention.

Try these few simple tips for learning a little bit every day and enjoy the added value you have created in your personal knowledgebase.

Written on 5/12/2009 by Ari J. Markenson, J.D., M.P.H. Ari is a healthcare attorney, graduate school professor and writer who regularly tries to learn something new as a goal toward personal and professional achievement. Photo Credit: cstrom

 

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