Most of the world’s top business leaders agree that continuous learning is a crucial skill for the 21st century. In an interview with The New York Times, Bill Gates mentioned that he reads around 50 books per year. The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, has stated in numerous interviews that lifelong learning defines him more than any other habit.
A couple of weeks ago, we hosted Amir Salihefendic, the CEO of Doist, on our flagship Keynote Speaker Series. We asked him what his most successful characteristic or habit is, as we ask all of our keynote speakers. He pointed to personal growth and continuous learning. Doist employees are encouraged to spend a month every year on personal projects that will allow them to become better at their job.
Similarly, at The Intern Group, we have made continuous learning one of our four core values. This means that alongside teamwork, people focus, and global leadership, we consider continuous learning to be essential in helping people discover their passions and realize their potential.
Why is continuous learning so important?
We are living in an age of constant change: sociopolitical change, change in the workplace, technological innovation and change, and personal change. It does not matter which industry you work in. Leaders are in agreement that while school teaches you how to learn, learning should not end with your formal education. Forming habits that make you a better continuous learner won’t just make you more skilled at your current job. It will make you more adaptable, mindful, and resilient in the long term.
While the importance of continuous learning is hard to dispute, it is also easier said than done. Many of us struggle with finding the time to finish that one book we started four months ago. Others swear that they would spend more time upskilling, if only they had more hours in the day. We’ve put together 3 simple tips on how you can make time for continuous learning on the go.
1) Redefine your idea of valuable knowledge
The first step to becoming a lifelong learner is to broaden your understanding of learning. A common misconception is that one needs to upskill in their specific field of work. The truth is that a successful journalist in the 21st century should also regularly exercise their logical and mathematical skills. Whereas an engineer should be consuming fiction and pop culture. To provide value and contribute to a rapidly changing society, we need to be well-versed in a wide variety of fields.
Business leaders stress the importance of developing creative hobbies. A creative person is more likely to find innovative ways to solve problems in the workplace. Software developers, data analysts and bankers should view painting, theatre, and learning how to play the piano as part of their continuous learning process.
Many of us feel pressured to start that course on business strategy, or read that book on productivity. We put off all other hobbies and activities that are equally valuable to lifelong learning, until we have worked on what we feel is more “legitimate” or “valuable”. As a result, we attach negative feelings to a concept that should be exciting, and are more likely to push it off. Rewarding yourself for improving your watercolor skills, or watching that documentary on racism, will expand your view on lifelong learning. This will then motivate you to spend more time doing it.
2) Learn on the go
There are numerous apps and websites that will help you in your continuous learning journey. Many of them are designed to be used on your daily commute, in between lectures, and while completing manual tasks. We highly recommend finding a set of Spotify or Apple podcasts. The BBC Radio hosts a number of great shows, including In Our Time, the BBC Minute, and the Global News Podcast. The New Yorker Radio Hour, the Economist Intelligence podcast, the Economist Asks, and a number of Forbes shows are great too. Do some research on the best shows for your interests. The great thing about the internet is that there is something for everyone. Your podcast app will allow you to learn while taking your dog for a walk or running errands.
In a rapidly globalizing world, learning a new language is always a great option. Duolingo and Babbel are two well known apps which feature a number of popular languages. We recommend taking your language learning a step further by using Audible to listen to basic stories in your foreign language of choice. Audible can be your best friend when it comes to continuous learning. Try listening to that career advancement book while you’re stuck in a traffic jam, and you’ll realize how much time you were wasting before you learnt how to make time for continuous learning on the go.
3) Relax better to learn better
You need to actively relax. Instead of scrolling through your feed when you are tired, try actually sleeping. This will make you much more engaged in daily life. Most of our motivation to learn comes from a passion to live. This means that you need to actively notice problems in your daily life. Try listening to your friends and family members, and absorbing the knowledge in your surroundings. “Accidental” learning in your daily life will push you to pursue continuous learning on the go.
Becoming a lifelong learner is not complicated. The resources are available to most of us: books, podcasts, apps and films. Content is everywhere (and lots of it’s free to access). The truth is that your mindset needs to change in order to want to spend more time learning. Be intentional with your time, and pursue your interests wholeheartedly. You will be set for lifelong learning and success.
Continuous Learning is one of The Intern Group’s core values. Learn more about how to make time for continuous learning through our virtual internship program. Our virtual internships are flexible to fit your schedule.