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October 25, 2018

Your Tips for Making Time for Learning and Development

Matthew Hughes

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Work, commute, family, friends, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, admin… do you ever feel like there aren't enough hours in the day?

When it's a struggle to complete the essential tasks in life, it can be a challenge to find the time for self-improvement and learning. This National Learning and Development Month, we decided to ask our friends and followers on social media how they do it.

The Importance of Learning and Development

From a professional perspective, prioritizing learning and development (L&D) is essential for getting ahead in your career.

Without some level of L&D, you'll likely get left behind in the workplace, and miss out on opportunities, such as a promotion or new responsibilities. Also, regularly challenging your mind through learning is proven to keep your brain healthy and sharp. In fact, when you learn something new, your brain physically changes!

L&D is not exclusively about gaining hard skills, such as becoming competent with a new piece of software or machinery. It can include finding more effective work processes, gaining a greater understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, improving your communications skills, and learning how to get the most out of life and work.

Organizations are increasingly aware of the positive return on investment in L&D: happy, competent, efficient and innovative workers. And, according to a 2016 report by the Association for Talent Development, organizations with a culture of learning are "more competitive, agile, and engaged."

Individuals can take responsibility for their own learning, too. In a recent blog, we discussed the rise of the "gig economy." Increasing numbers of us are now self-employed, or in insecure roles. In this environment, professional development becomes entirely self-directed and, arguably, even more important.

Your Top Tips

So, now you know how important it is, how do you find the time for learning? We asked you, our friends and followers on social media, for your thoughts and advice.

Prioritize and Schedule

On Twitter, CareerGoals360 said that determination is an important factor: "You make time by prioritizing learning and development."

Likewise, Tristan Chicklowski suggested that you "make yourself promise that continued learning is the absolute best path to personal development."

CareerGoals360 added that along with determination, planning your time is key. "One of the best ways is by incorporating a routine and scheduling a set time each day for learning and other related activities," he commented.

Patti Thompson on LinkedIn noted the importance of a To-Do List: "I add it to my weekly schedule like I do other important tasks." The message is this: don't think of L&D as a luxury. Treat it just like you would other high-priority activities.

"I think most people will find hours of time to spend on social media. Using some of the time spent on social media is one way of making that time," offered Meyrem S on LinkedIn. Identify time-consuming activities that you consider less important, like social media or video games, and replace those activities with a set amount of weekly L&D.

See our article, 8 Ways to Prioritize Your Professional Development, for more tips on prioritizing learning.

Make Use of Spare Time

Ultimately, L&D can eat into your spare time, as many of our respondents noted. This might mean setting aside time during your weekends, evenings or lunch breaks. On Twitter, Natalia Armando said she does her learning and development "at the end of the day, after work."

On LinkedIn, Gustė Danilevičiūtė said, "E-learning is done while commuting to work on the train." For many people, commuting to and from work takes up a significant portion of the day. This is valuable time that you can put to good use.

If you want to learn more about making the most of your commute, our article is full of handy tips.

Use Online Resources

Like Gustė above, many responses focused on the value of e-learning. In many ways, smartphones and the internet have revolutionized how we learn. Rather than having to go to a class at specific times, now you can set your own schedule.

"E-learning on weekends at night," is how Sridhar does it. "E-learning and webinars run by entrepreneurs (at night when my daughter’s asleep)," commented Elizabeth Connolly.

Michelle S. also championed the benefits of online resources: "Bite-sized learning accessible through my mobile devices works best for me. Allocating pockets of time throughout the day to gain information from various resources that I subscribe to – via apps, articles, short videos, etc. – keeps me informed and enlightened on a wide range of topics, anytime, anywhere!"

Combine Activities

On Facebook, Mohammad Al-Tamimi recommended "listening to lectures while doing your exercises." With the rise of podcasts and other easy-access learning portals, it's possible to combine your tasks. You can complete your L&D quota while washing up, preparing food, shopping, driving or, as Mohammad suggests, exercising.

But a word of caution here. Generally, it's good practice to focus on one thing at a time. If you try to do several things at once, you may find yourself not really learning or achieving anything. See our blog on the truths and myths around multitasking for more on this topic.

The final word on finding time comes from Grande VeeW. Even though making time for L&D may be difficult, as Grande VeeW tweeted, “Where there is a will… there is a way.”

L&D is something we are passionate about at Mind Tools. After all, our raison d'être is to help learners to enjoy successful careers! So how do you make time for your learning and development? Share your thoughts, below.

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6 comments on “Your Tips for Making Time for Learning and Development”

  1. It's good to know how you can utilize your time during the day for self learning and treat this activity as a high-priority thing to do in your to do list. That could help create a new habit of your lifestyle.

    1. Very good point there Tho Kim about making your learning a priority and making time for it, rather than simply trying to squeeze it in the diary whenever you might have time. When we make time for our learning, we grow and progress so much more!

  2. Make use of available spare time. I try to schedule some time on a weekly basis for learning. I usually review my calendar for the week ahead and block out some time and stick to it as much as possible.

    1. Great idea Charlotte! When we can block out time in our diaries for learning and treat it like any other appointment, we will more likely do it! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I subscribe to some very good feeds like the HBR management tip of the day which is a daily boost, reflection or idea that you can try to put into practice right away. Early morning is my creative time for developing new ideas which expand one's reach beyond current bounds and I use mind mapping software for that (in fact for everything). I agree with a former contributor that you just have to prioritise important but not urgent things like learning over other things sometimes - otherwise the urgent will always win. On a hierarchy of needs learning is ultimately more important and fundamental.

    1. Thanks Robert for sharing your thoughts about learning. I agree that we need to be continually learning in some form or another in order to grow and the key is finding the right time which works best for us ... I'm also a morning person!

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