This is the second of 10 challenges for you to consider embracing to create a new year that is more productive for yourself as well as for those around you. I have borrowed ideas from a book I read last year, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Stories for New Leaders by Michael Watkins.

Read previous challenge articles:
First Challenge – Promote yourself.

Second Challenge – Accelerate Your Learning

If you have committed to being a professional, whether you did it consciously or not, you committed to a lifetime of learning. And I don’t just mean the learning that comes with experience. I mean the type of learning that only comes as a result of a determination to always be the best at what you do.

Learn with a purpose – Whether you are taking on a new role, or just committing to execute your current role at a higher level, stop to think systematically about where you have knowledge gaps. Prioritize the need to fill those gaps and use this as your guide for focused learning.

Analyze your early wins/losses – Whenever you have a win or a loss, dig in and analyze why you won or lost. As difficult as it may be, being honest about a loss is the surest way to avoid future losses. And, as strange as it may sound, be just as determined to find out why you truly had a win. It’s the surest path to replicating the win.

Schedule your learning – There are almost always tasks that seem to be a higher priority in the moment than learning. This makes it way too easy to procrastinate. Make learning part of your job description and, like everything for which you are responsible, block out time on your calendar to make it happen.

Become the teacher – The surest way to learn something new is to commit to teaching it to someone else. Put yourself in the position to have to make a presentation, teach a class, or just mentor another individual.

Be the student – Identify someone (or multiple people) who is already in the role to which you aspire, and ask them if they are willing to answer some questions, provide guidance, and help fill your knowledge gaps.

Know your learning style – Some of us are visual learners, some are auditory, while others are tactile. In reality, we are all some combination. Experiment with various techniques and learn what is most effective for you.

Acceleration Checklist as suggested in The First 90 Days (paraphrased in places)

1. Are you guilty of assuming that you already have “the answer”?

If so, how will you avoid doing this?

2. What is your learning agenda?

Compose a list of the knowledge gaps that stand between you and the knowledge required for you to better perform your role as you would like to.

3. Given the knowledge you would like to acquire, which individuals are most likely to provide you with solid actionable insights?

4. How might you increase the efficiency of your learning process?

What are some ways you might extract more actionable insights for your investment of time and energy?

 

There is no better time to start learning than right now.

Photo by Alan Levine.