If you're looking for reasons to make time in your busy schedule to keep learning, there's no shortage of possibilities. First and foremost, perhaps, is that you'll be in great company. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey all set aside dedicated time to learn new things each week. Look how far the practice has taken them.

But if you're looking for more scientific explanations of why the end of school shouldn't mean the end of learning, writer John Coleman is probably your man. He writes regularly for the HBR blogs on the subject of lifelong learning and its many benefits. One of his recent posts is a must read for those who suspect they should make more time in their lives to nourish their brains, but still need a bit of a kick in the pants.

Richer, happier, and more popular

In the post, Coleman runs down all the evidence for the many benefits of lifelong learning, turning up studies and reports that show continual study is the cure for many of life's most pressing problems. The complete article is well worth a read in full, but here are a few of the most impressive effects of regularly feeding your intellect:

  • You'll be richer. It's not hard to believe that in a fast-moving world, staying on top professionally (and thus maxing out your earning potential) requires lifelong learning, but if you're in doubt Coleman points you to this piece from The Economist. The headline -- "Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative" -- pretty much says it all.
  • You'll be healthier. As I've previously reported, simply reading a small amount each week is linked with greater health. But Coleman goes a step further, pointing out that "while the causation is inconclusive, there's a well-studied relationship between longevity and education." In essence, the more you learn, the longer you're likely to live.
  • You'll be more popular. Coleman has less evidence for this one, but he asserts that in his experience, curiosity and social success tend to go together. "While few studies validate this observation, I've noticed in my own interactions that those who dedicate themselves to learning and who exhibit curiosity are almost always happier and more socially and professionally engaging than those who don't," he writes.
  • You'll be happier. Coleman might not cite evidence linking learning and mental well being, but there are studies showing that a regular reading habit boosts your happiness.

How to find time for learning

Taken together, all this evidence is probably enough to convince even the busiest among us of the value of making time for lifelong learning. But how, practically, do you manage to squeeze it into your schedule? The first and most important step is to make a commitment to continuous study. Hey, if Bill Gates can manage to fit in a little education each day, surely you have the time too.

There are also plenty of practical tips to help turn that commitment into reality, including clever ways to slip learning into jam-packed days, lists of free resources for online study, and dead simple interventions that are guaranteed to free up hours a week for reading.

How many hours a week do you dedicate to learning?