It's easy to fall out of the "student" mindset. After you've been in the workforce, either as an entrepreneur, CEO, or employee, etc., it can be tough to get back into the grind of reading and experiencing things for the sole purpose of learning, you have to train your brain. Of course you're always learning whether you like it or not, but making a conscious effort to take time out to learn something new and beneficial can be tough. It can be time consuming and even difficult, but it's a crucial aspect of success for those who want to grow and improve in the business world.
So once you've made the decision to spend time learning new things to improve your business, learning how to learn, or how to become a successful learner, is your next step. This will ensure that you're spending your time efficiently and moving in the right direction. Below are 6 ways to help you become a more successful learner:
Step #1: Always Ask Questions and Prepare to Ask Questions
It doesn't matter how or where you're doing the learning--at a conference, when reading a new book, talking to a mentor, talking to a client, etc.--you have to ask questions. If you can't think of any questions on the spot, it's important you take some time out of your day to review what you learned (see the next point) and create a list of questions you may have. Asking questions can help you remember and retain information as well as help you understand on a deeper level, which is the key to successful learning.
Step #2: Review and Review and Review Some More
No surprise here, you have to continually review what you learned (or what you just read/heard so that it can become something you learned). This means not only review immediately, but go back and review every few weeks to make sure you're retaining the information. This goes right along with asking questions because oftentimes when you review you come up with new questions to ask, again helping deepen your understanding.
Step #3: Make Direct Connections with Your Business
Whenever you're learning something new, it's important to stop and create a direct connection with the information and what it means to you. How can you use it for your business? How could it potentially affect an aspect of your life? Making this connection as soon as possible can help you categorize what you're learning and help guide your thoughts and build off of that lesson. This turns your learning into something practical as well, which can help with motivation.
Step #4: Put What You Learned Into Practice
After you make that direct connection, if you can practice what you've learned then even better. This won't always be possible right away, but if it is, then practicing what you learned can help engrave the lesson in your memory. This will also help you trouble-shoot and ask questions as well as think about what you need to learn to make the action even better and more effective.
Step #5: Accept Your Failures
A past Inc. article by Proteus founding partner Erika Anderson puts this as "Be willing to be not-good." As with anything in business, you're not going to be a master learner right away, and this can be one of the toughest aspects of learning. It will get frustrating and it could be difficult if you're used to learning fast, but being able to keep going is key. Don't give up and revert back to learning things that are easy. As Anderson says, "If you want to get good at anything, you need to be realistic about where you're starting from; unleash your inner curiosity; and be willing to be not-great before you get great."
Step #6: Stay Healthy
Get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise. This will help you stay alert and active, which will in turn help you become a better learner. Plain and simple, if you're constantly bogged down and tired and lethargic you're not going to be able to do any of the points above to the best of your ability.