What do Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates all have in common? Well, besides being wildly successful in their respective fields, they all commit to reading at least five hours each week and contend that depriving yourself of the learning opportunity of reading is irresponsible. That's a pretty strong point of view.

I believe reading is one way of learning and keeping up with developments in your field. But one of the wonderful things about living in the digital age is we're able to recognize and access different styles of learning. In addition to reading, there are now podcasts, YouTube videos, and webinars. And social media plugs you into a wealth of other resources bringing you insights you may not have come across otherwise. How many times have you roved from one link to the next? Suddenly, hours have passed without your even realizing it.

Whether you're in a formal classroom setting or casually watching a documentary at home, the need to learn remains just as critical for adults as it is for school-age children. Not to mention that in our fast-paced marketplace, what is new today may be passé tomorrow. 

If you're an entrepreneur, that means it is critical for you to keep up with the latest trends so that your business can innovate and iterate. Here are three tips on how you can continue to expand your knowledge and learn smarter, for your brain and for your brand.

1. Make time to reflect. 

We have all been there: you have a meaningful interaction or you read something compelling and you think, I'll remember that. But in reality, while you may be able to recall parts of the experience, often it isn't with the same nuance. Write it down! Indeed, research suggests that writing things down helps us retain information. 

When I reflect soon after I learn something new, either by writing my thoughts down or sharing them with someone else, it allows me to better capture and retain my initial thoughts and feelings. As human beings, we make meaning of our experiences by processing them. And like reading your favorite book, you may find new meaning in the story at different stages of your life. 

Whatever the case may be, making the time to reflect on the things you've learned or experienced can be key to better understanding yourself, your decisions, and the world around you. Whether in a journal, to a therapist, or to a friend or colleague, reflection is good for your personal growth and for your business. How else can you judge what is working and what isn't working for your bottom line? 

2. Take action to reinforce what you've learned.

As an adult learner you want to be able to use the new knowledge or skill you've acquired soon after you've acquired it, in order to reinforce what you've learned. Another characteristic of adult learning is that it needs to be practical. There are different ways of understanding something conceptually, and it isn't the same as actually doing it.

In learning to drive a car, for example, I remember that the feeling of driving in reverse was very different from my conceptual understanding of it just from reading a manual. Only when I was in the driver's seat was I able to adjust my movements and gauge my spatial orientation. Although it may seem like a simple illustration, there are countless times when you can practice what you just learned in real-time.

3. Teach it.

"If you really want to learn something, teach it," is an expression that has been around for a long time. The process of preparing to teach pushes you to know that subject matter very well. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking foolish in front of an audience.

While I am not suggesting you become a professor, I am encouraging you to articulate your learning to others. Being in conversation with other people around a new idea creates a dynamic learning experience. There is an opportunity for reciprocity as you continue to build on and challenge each other's ideas. As social beings, there is value in learning together with others. In a business setting, for example, this can be as simple as being sure to take the time to organize a debrief after an important meeting. 

By using these three tips, it can be easier to make lifelong learning a reality -- and not just an aspiration.

Published on: Oct 19, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.