Five Magical Steps to Learning New Skills

Five Magical Steps to Learning New Skills

Skill learning should always be a ‘work in progress’ in today’s fast-paced world. You cannot be truly employable or stay at a job for long if you don’t upgrade your skills constantly. Even when you are retired, it pays to learn new skills because an active mind will keep diseases and boredom at bay. So here are a few ways to learn new skills that will make you have fun while becoming more employable.

Start small
It’s fine if you have an undying curiosity to learn a completely different skill from what you are qualified for, like you are a software engineer but want to learn how to fly a plane. But it’s best if you start small to make a bigger impression. Don’t just learn a new skill to kill boredom. Start with something you have an interest in or have a hunger to learn about something that astounds you, like quantum physics or artificial intelligence, or aviation. Just don’t make the mistake of opting for something that’s too difficult to learn at the beginning stage itself, that you could get demotivated and lose interest completely. Choose your new skills carefully. For example, you could be more at ease with a guitar than a tabla. So think through your choices before you pick up that musical instrument.

Use music to boost memory & focus
Neuro scientists have shown that across centuries, music has been used to work its magic across different categories and movements. When you are working on something, distractions and obsessive-compulsive habits like checking email, social media or watching inane videos, could dent your productivity. These are what scientists call ‘goal habituation’ distractions. So use music like the one at to gain ‘selective attention’, so you can remain focussed on your task despite the distractions and habitual urges. For example, soft instrumental music is better than loud vocals for sustaining attention and focus.

Short spurts, please!
It’s best to take a break every 20-40 minutes during your learning process rather than go on a long marathon session. Cramming is no good as it’s great quantity, but there is an abject lack of quality there. In addition, cramming isn’t conducive to good memory. However, if you learn new skills in short spurts, the chances of retention are far higher and therefore, more fruitful.

Apply your knowledge
When you are learning any new skill, try to apply it to your practical life. This will make you keep that information for a longer time, and also use it when needed. Disuse will erase the skill learnt over time, whereas practical learning will keep it alive, so long as you are using it to your benefit. For example: If you’ve learnt how to make videos using a mobile app, try to take an existing video and keep editing the video to make it better by using the app. The buzzword is to ‘better’ the video every time. That’s when you will learn something new. Or talking to a person in a new language you are learning right now. That’s when you will not only learn the meaning of the word but also how it’s spoken and understood by the others. Don’t just stay inside the classroom. Step outside and smell the air.

Summarise it for others
This technique is way cooler than you might first imagine. Think of it this way. You have just learnt a new recipe off YouTube and then meet someone at the club, where you talk about it. You summarise the recipe and then realise that you have not just taken down the recipe by rote but also know why those ingredients are being added and in what order as your brain starts justifying every ingredient. The other person will ask questions based on the recipe, and you answer those, which further cement your learning. In addition, you might gain extra insight on the recipe through this introspective interaction, which not only make this recipe more memorable, but also help you experiment with it to help you make it even better.

And finally…
Keeping you motivated is the key to learning any new skill. And for that, you have to find the ‘flow’ and stick to it with any or more of the techniques described above. However, remember that you should try not to stick to just one method that works. Remember, repeated use of any one method could lead to boredom. So do a mix of everything to make your learning come alive, like videos, reading, writing, speaking and conversational sessions, among others. Best of luck.

Also published on Medium.


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