Learning a new skill?

How often have you started learning a new skill or working on a passion project, only to skip a day or three? Suddenly, it’s been weeks or months since it had your time and attention. Don’t let a passion or skill fall on your bucket list.  Work and life only get busier. Don’t deny your passion! Get creative with a few tricks to optimize your time.

1. Take Your Learning on the Go

Many hobbies and skills are portable. Listen to audio language lessons in the car on your way to and from work. Play your guitar or sketch quick portraits during your lunch hour. When hanging out with friends, ask them to humour you, and demonstrate your skill or talk about your passion for them.

Breaking your learning down into small increments also makes the learning more manageable. Think of how drained you feel at work after focusing on one thing for too long. What if you could use your break to work on your project?

Creative multitasking improves productivity. It keeps your mind entertained and engages multiple areas of the brain. If you’re allowed some flexibility at work, talk to your boss and let them know that a little healthy distraction boosts your work morale.

2. Make It Part of Your Morning or Evening Routine

If you can, learn a new skill as part of your winding up or winding down routine. Does this skill invigorate you or relax you? Could it do either?

Practice asana in the morning to get your body moving. Do free writing to let go of the stresses of your mind, and keep to a daily writing practice. Instead of sedating yourself with junk food and TV after work, focus on sitting down with a tasty snack and applying yourself to your newfound passion.

Famous entrepreneurs and inventors have long recognized that it’s wise to follow the right daily routine. It’s important to design your routine around how you function best — and only you know that. Unfortunately, most people have to deal with long work hours, and it’s best to add a new skill to the morning or evening routine to make it into a habit. Or you could model your routine after Winston Churchill, and do your work from your bed in the morning, with a late afternoon catnip.

3. Trust Your Whims and Defy Routine

It sucks to plan everything in life. Break up the monotony of your day by trusting your mind’s whim to work on your project or learn your chosen skill.

Your body is cueing you in that it needs something different, and spontaneous thought impacts judgment, associating powerful meaning with the task. Trusting your gut can lead to a higher meaning and more fulfilment in learning a new skill.

4. Be Honest With Yourself About Your Relationship With Time

How do you use your time? It’s not about monetizing your time or turning yourself into a productivity robot. You should enjoy what you are doing.  Be honest with yourself about how you spend your time and why. Ask yourself:

      • Do you feel a sense of joy and accomplishment, or do you feel guilty later?
      • Is your sleep affected when you make up for lost time?
      • Is the time you would spend learning devoted to something that doesn’t make you feel any better?
      • Can you cut down or prioritize when you watch TV or check your email and social media?
      • Is there another hobby or activity that you only do for the sake of doing it?

Let go of what isn’t working for you, and remember why you wanted or needed to learn this new skill.

5. Make It Easier for Yourself

When you learn a new skill, any pitfalls and planning can be frustrating. You’ll realize learning is more work than you thought it would be. Do what you can to manage your time and reduce your stress throughout the week. Consider:

      • Simplifying your workspace
      • Making aspects of your project, and its tools, portable
      • Creating a task list
      • Listing small, trackable goals

Figure out what will make things easier and more enjoyable. When you focus on minimalism, it’s easier to pick up where you left off, without dread.

To learn a new skill takes time, dedication and passion. Often, these requirements conflict with other areas of life, but a little creative thought, reflection, and honesty go a long way toward making progress.

Everyone learns differently and in their own time. The benefits of learning something new outweigh the sometimes hair-pulling process of doing so. Stick with it, and remember that time is on your side when you focus less on hating the clock. 

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Kayla Matthews is a technology and personal development writer who regularly contributes to The Daily Muse, MakeUseOf and The Huffington Post.