How often do you forget to brush your teeth in the morning? Probably not very often. Although you don’t always think, “I should brush my teeth … I have to brush my teeth …”
And how often do you plan to attend an educational event or spend 15 minutes every day learning something new but then forget about it?
Why do we not even think but do when it comes to brushing our teeth? And why are we constantly thinking but not doing when it comes to learning?
The answer is straightforward. Brushing our teeth, driving, smoking, having our morning coffee in the office in the kitchen, or Monday meetings are habits we have formed. The power of practice on an individual or organizational level is incredible. Try changing one of your habits, and you will feel its power.
Charles Duhigg, in his book “The Power of Habit. Why we act this way and not that way in life and business,” introduces the concept of the “habit loop.” A “habit loop” consists of an instruction (trigger), a pattern of behavior, and a reward.
Let’s imagine that you like to start your morning with coffee, and it has become a particular habit for you. Ringing the alarm clock and getting up becomes a trigger for you. Making coffee and drinking it becomes a pattern of behavior. And a caffeine boost, a moment of relaxation or lazy time with the newspaper becomes a reward.
Fortunately, sports and healthy eating are becoming routine for more and more people. How do you turn training into a habit like this?
Five tips on how to make learning a habit
1. Start with “Why?”
It’s not without reason that it’s joked that the best way to learn Spanish is to fall in love with a Spanish girl. Determine for yourself why you want to know. Maybe you want to get energized or make new acquaintances. Or to develop some skill or competency? Just be able to talk about a new topic, like impressionism or neuroscience?
2. Set SMART goals.
Setting clear goals will allow you to build your learning strategy. Of course, the critical thing is that the goals should be formulated in a SMART technique (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited). That is, the goal should be, for example, not “improve your English skills” but “take ten lessons with a teacher and attend five conversation clubs within a month.”
3. Build learning into another habit.
To do this, leave the trigger and reward from the old habit but change the pattern of behavior. Once again, let’s imagine that you like to start your morning with coffee. When you start your coffee, you probably immediately get your phone to check Facebook in parallel – that’s the pattern you can change! Instead of Facebook, open a book, saved articles you’ve wanted to read for a long time but haven’t had 5-10 minutes to spare, or a short language lesson on Duolingo. So you leave the instruction (drink coffee in the morning) and reward (a caffeine boost or just a few minutes alone), but change the pattern (short education instead of checking Facebook).
4. Create “Alcoholics Anonymous” groups for training
The promise to others always encourages us to keep going, even if our motivation diminishes. Arrangements with a coach or instructor force us to come to the training session as well. A regular monthly book club helps us read at least one book a month. Humans are social creatures, so we always care what others think of us. Use this to your advantage.
For example, you are in the habit of scheduling work with your colleagues each week. Build into that habit training for the whole team. You can plan with your team to attend an educational event during the week or tell everyone what you learned from a book you recently read, a lecture you heard or training you attended.
5. Start with small steps
Learning doesn’t necessarily require a significant amount of time or money. Start with small steps. Often we don’t make a habit of reading much, but we regularly set ourselves a goal of reading 50 books a year, predictably fail to achieve it year after year, and then give up on that goal altogether. And you don’t start with 50 books, but with 20, but read them! Start not with “learn a language in 3 months” but with “attend five conversation clubs in 3 months”! The big journey starts with a small step.
According to a paper writer study, a third of all workers in the U.S. could be out of work by 2030 due to automation. That begs the question – what is there to learn to stay competitive?
Among the ten most in-demand skills in the U.K. in 2030 is active learning or learning strategies. That is, no knowledge of a particular programming language or Excel, but the ability to learn as such, because that is what can give you access to all the other skills – we learn to master them and change constantly.
You can start preparing for the future today with small steps and, for example, plan to attend some lectures next week.