Are your skills, knowledge and experience more valuable today than they were six months ago?
As much as we may dislike it, our skills, knowledge and experience degrades over time unless we work hard to stay updated. Continuous learning, or personal daily learning, is essential to remain valuable and to maintain our expertise. However, it is easier said than done, keeping updated and continuing to learn needs to be habitual, like your morning coffee.
How can you develop a daily learning habit? We have been researching the literature and here are five proven ways that may help you build a daily learning habit.
1. Use an anchor – a current habit
Creating a new daily habit is easier if there is a trigger that is anchored to your real-life, daily habits.
These habits are things you do every day without thinking about it. Making a morning cup of tea or checking your Facebook.
We all have habits that we do every day. We can use these as anchors to trigger a new learning or productivity habit.
So choose an anchor, one which is a daily reliable habit, something you always do and one which matches the frequency of the new habit you want to acquire. For example, if you want a new daily habit, choose an anchor that happens once a day, like getting out of bed. The key is to connect your new habit to your existing one and do it during or after.
Your anchor will be very personal and you need to decide what trigger may work best for you. It might simply be when I have my first coffee I will check the headlines on my news feed or when I sit down on the train I will check what my top 5 influencers have shared on social media. That’s what our Anders Pink app helps you to do more efficiently.
You can use changes in your routine to acquire new habits. For example, if you have moved job and have a different train journey you can use that change to acquire a new habit. There are different views on how long new habits take to form though a number of studies have said it takes at least 21 days. It probably takes longer. Don’t count, just get going.
2. If this, then that – be precise
You need to create a behavioural expectation. Once you have chosen an anchor that will trigger your new habit, you need to be clear about the new behaviour. So when you have your morning coffee this will trigger the new habit. The idea is to make the habit automatic, something you don’t need to think about doing.
It is better to have precise tasks such as I will check my news feed rather than something vague such as when I have coffee I will do some learning. Something that feels small and really easy – on the level of ‘I will read one new article’. You can always stretch to two next week.
Some people refer to this as a behavioural sequence or chain, so ‘after I make my coffee, I’ll check my News Feed.’ It is something that you want to make instinctive, if I am doing this then next I will do that, almost without thinking. Something that goes naturally with an existing habit is more likely to become part of your routine. Just make sure it’s specific enough.
3. Start small – but just do it
Think big in terms of your behaviour change and its impact but start with micro-goals. What is the minimum you need to do to?
Making the daily goals achievable will help you move to a bigger goal over time. Keep the bigger picture in mind but start small. These are also called micro-resolutions, goals that are realistic and achievable and which you know you can do. This is linked to the theory of nudges, in simple terms nudging people towards behaviour change over time through a series of small steps.
Also understand what motivates you. Habits don’t form without motivation. If you start with daily tasks you hate you are less likely to achieve them. Thus identify the tasks you are more likely to do. Thus if you are unlikely to read an in-depth compliance report over coffee or complete an elearning module, then make your initial task easier such as review the top 5 articles my team have shared this week.
The key is not simply to think differently but to do something differently. You need small actions you will actually complete and which become part of your new habit.
You can can adjust your tasks as we will see below. Don’t get hung up on getting it perfect for now. The initial challenge is to develop a daily habit. Going from not doing something to always doing something takes time. Give yourself every chance of success by starting with something simple, like reading your daily digest email right after you turn on your phone.
4. Monitor – and change or adjust
So 10 days later, are you staying on track? Monitoring is important, you need to check that you are doing or not doing what you planned. We tend to be poor at assessing what we have done, such as how much we walked or ate today. Find a simple way of tracking what you have done. This might be as simple as starring or saving articles you have read and looking back to see if you’re meeting your goals.
Once you have developed a habit and you are learning every day you can look to up your game. You can start to stretch yourself a little and add more to your actions. But let the anchor stay in place, it’s important to keep doing it until it’s as embedded in your routine as brushing your teeth. Most habits should become lifelong and automatic – you don’t think of brushing your teeth or going to the gym as things you’ll some day complete and stop doing. So start small and build up to the point where it’s unconsciously become part of your day.
5. Understand why you stop – remove obstacles
Most habits don’t stick. Why? You need to understand what is stopping you forming a habit. It can be something very small, even having a to move room, which can stop a habit forming. In the early stages of habit forming, it takes very little to distract us or find a reason not to do it.
“To an astonishing degree, we’re influenced by the amount of effort, time, or decision making required by an action. The more convenient, the more likely we are to do it; the more inconvenient, the less likely we are to do it.” Gretchen Rubin
Motivation and ability are also barriers.If you’re not motivated, if you can’t really see the benefit, it won’t stick. It it’s too difficult, for example you’ve committed to go straight to reading 25 new articles a day, you’re asking too much of yourself. So you have to look at what’s stopping it and tweak. By understanding what it is that is stopping you, it is then possible to look at ways to overcome this obstacle. You have to make it easy. Work can provide no end of distractions – so think about practicing your new habits before your workday starts in earnest, or at the end of it.
Start a new habit
It is not easy to change habits. However, by following these five steps you may find it easier than you think. The hardest step is to get started. So what are you going to do differently today?