People ask me occasionally for advice when it comes to working for a startup or what is it like working for a startup. I usually give the same answer: “I am always learning and always make time to learn.” I would say on average, I spend at least 30% of a work week learning, whether it’s reading, listening to podcasts, talking to people, etc… 30% of a week sounds like an awful lot right? But in reality that 30% of my week is incredibly critical in ensuring that I become a more effective and efficient member of our team! It’s not a lot of time to dedicate when I know that learning now will save me time and effort later on, as well as keeping my mind fresh and refreshed.
So how does one “learn” in the workplace and how do can you apply your learnings to your work and personal life? I will break down the 3 key areas where I attempt to spend the majority of the time when it comes to learning.
I spend at least 30 minutes to an hour every morning reading. By carving out a time to read in the mornings I am ensuring that I am learning in a structured manner daily. This to me is a very sacred time to me, much like CEO’s or other key executives lock off an hour in the mornings to deal with emails, I ensure that my morning ritual of reading is never double booked or sacrificed. By doing this I am effectively setting myself up for the rest of the day with additional knowledge and knowing that I won’t be pressured into having to “learn” later in the day.
I usually have a couple of key websites, publications, and books that are my go-to’s. I usually break it down between the current news/events, startup news, startup/career/workplace advice, marketing publications, and sports/soccer (eh gotta have some fun reading as well.) I always try to read the same set of sources, again just comes down to the whole routine thing. That being said I am always looking for new places to read (send them if you got them!) But I always try to read something new or “unknown” to me daily, whether that be a publication, subject, or random fact. I usually head to Medium or Wikipedia just to learn something new and unexpected. Some of my favorite reads include.
So why is reading important? Honestly, it sounds like I just waste an hour a day on reading miscellaneous stuff. This is true unless you apply/incorporate the knowledge that you are reading into real-world scenarios. For example, things like applying new marketing techniques to my digital campaigns or trying out a new method of planning out my week’s schedule. Knowledge is only as powerful as the user who wields it. So hey, why not step outside of your comfort zone and try something new based on some random thing you read on the internet? Sometimes you should trust the internet.
Listening isn’t just about listening to podcasts, in reality, listening is more about making sure that you don’t let the world pass by you without acknowledging the nuggets of information that may befall your ears. This could mean conversations with coworkers, friends, at meetups, etc. The importance of listening skills might sound cliche, but it’s something that I find to be critical when comes to learning in the workplace. Listening to people around you, especially those that are smarter than you, is always a great way to learn and is easily accessible. It’s an easy way to get a daily dose of learning.
Beyond listening to coworkers and people alike, podcasts are a great source of learning. As a media format, podcasts have really exploded with a variety of topics and genres readily available. I could talk endlessly about podcasts and how revolutionary they are, but most people already know that…
So what podcasts do I listen to while at work or commuting? Again, very similar to my reading habits, my podcast listening habits really vary. From How I Built This to Pardon My Take, I try to listen to a variety of things to keep my horizons open!
Very similar to listening is talking. That being said, I separated the two formats mainly because it requires a different set of skills and time commitment in order for it to be worthwhile. Being able to listen is one thing and an important skill in its own right. Being able to respond and foster additional conversation is another skill. By prompting further conversation and engaging with people in conversation/debate, you are able to discover additional viewpoints and understandings of a topic.
This is easily the most important format of learning, by talking with others you are ensuring that you are not in an echo chamber of your understanding of a topic. You can selectively choose what you want to read or what you want to listen to, and to an extent, the people you are talking to. That being said, with talking with others you are always giving yourself additional viewpoints and continuing to learn through conversation and engagement.
So who should you be conversing/talking with? The easiest people are ones that are readily available to you, co-workers, friends, family, etc… Though as I mentioned above about echo chambers, the best set of people you can learn from are strangers or new people outside of your current network. These are the people that are going to give you the best value in being able to understand their point of view for a certain topic. Try going to meetups or free conferences in your area, there are a variety of different options that you can find on Meetup or Eventbrite. Try following a couple of different email lists that constantly keep you updated on events, one of my favorite here in TechNY Daily. Experiencing and talking with new people allows for you promote your ideas but also hear new ones. There is no greater format of learning while you are working than engaging in conversation with new people and your peers.
Also read: 4 Insightful TED Talks For Job Hunters
There are plenty of different ways to learn and grow. That being said, in the workplace it can be difficult to expand your horizons with the day to day work. Make sure you carve out a niche of time to grow and prosper. Hopefully, with those three key areas of learning, you can help yourself out even for 30 minutes a day!