Back in the day, you went to school to learn a skill and then performed your skill for the next 40 years. Times have changed and anyone working today knows you never stop learning. As a guy who started in IT as a technical specialist, it seems I was asked to pick up new skills every week.
Over the years, this drive for constant learning became a way of life which I keep until today. As a business leader, I try to instill this same desire in all of my employees but some complain that they are “bad learners”. Some complain that they have never been good at learning new skills so it caused me to ask my self “what makes a good learner?”
Contrary to popular lore, anyone can train themselves to be a good and efficient learner if they master the following skills:
Curiosity is critical. You must develop a sense of wonder and a sense of curiosity.
When I learned speed reading, one of the first skills I had to develop was curiosity. I learned that without a genuine curiosity, your sub-conscious will help you learn easier and faster.
Why do you want to learn the skill? What about this skill is most important to you? How will this skill or knowledge positively impact your life?
Learning is an ongoing process
Too many people rush to get to the end rather than using the learning journey to improve themselves. Learning is an ongoing process and you will “never be done learning”. Using this approach, find the traits, skills or patterns that will ultimately lead to the desired end result and practice each one (one by one).
Learning is an ongoing process and this approach will allow you to break it down into manageable and measurable chunks. Always keep improving.
Find opportunities to teach the skill you are acquiring to others. Research shows that teaching a skill has an incredibly positive effect on your ability to assimilate and master a new skill or knowledge.
Teach it even if you feel your skills isn't 100% yet.
To really master new knowledge or a skill, you have to apply this to often. A good example of this is a student that spends 2 high school years learning Spanish and then never uses it. A couple of years later, you probably would have “lost” this knowledge.
If you are learning a language, find a language support group where you can periodically chat with native speakers. If you are learning a new technical skill that is not part of your day to day job, do a side project to use it.
Refresh your knowledge
I strongly recommend that you take notes using (the brain compatible) mind mapping technique. This is a great way to learn a new skill. If you re-open your notes many years later, you will realize how quickly it will refresh your knowledge and bring it almost all back with minimal effort.
There are dozens of sites explaining mind mapping but the only one you should pay any attention to is the books or sites from its original creator, Tony Buzan.