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How to Use Pockets of Time You Didn’t Know You Had for Self-Learning

Here’s a day in the life of Arvinder Gujral: like everyone else, Arvinder wakes up in the morning to get ready for work. To kickstart his day with a good mood, he puts on some music. He then catches up with worldly events through his favourite news channels and Twitter - where he is the SEA managing director - before heading out. After a busy day of back-to-back meetings, he commutes back home to end his day with some family time.

Sounds ordinary, yes? But what isn’t obvious at first glance through this unassuming schedule is that Arvinder manages to also squeeze in at least an hour of self-learning daily. Judging by Arvinder’s career altitude, there are two things that many might find puzzling: why would he do that and how does he find time?

The Necessity Of Self-learning

The world has a tacit agreement when it comes to how formal education progresses. A child would attend school for about a decade to master the basics, before graduating to college to hone in on a more specific subject. Never mind that knowledge is constantly evolving; unless the person chooses to further his tertiary studies, his knowledge-based learning has basically come to an end. From here on out, any hesitation to put concepts into practice is met with advice to gain more practical experiences instead. The idea that one could continue to reinforce his theoretical foundation is almost too counterintuitive to consider.

Arvinder strongly disagrees: “What they haven’t realised is that knowledge isn’t accretive or iterative, it is accumulated over a period of time.” He analogises that it’s well within a doctor’s responsibility to improve upon his knowledge to make up-to-date diagnosis, as old theories get discredited while new ones develop rapidly in the medical field. The same applies to all: according to the World Economic Forum, 35% of skills required in jobs across industries are changing this year alone. It’s a shift that on-the-job training has failed to address. As such, continuous self-learning is the key to surviving the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But there’s more to learning than as a means of securing our titles. Most people spend the majority of their time being a manager or a director, and the rest gearing up to maintain the position or climb further up their career ladder. Our personal interests take a backseat when it comes to learning. “We take ourselves too seriously,” said Arvinder, “There are other hours where you’re just a human with likes and dislikes. What are you doing with yourself? Are you evolving your personal self?” In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average time in a single job has dropped to merely 4.2 years. By and large, your hobbies may come to your rescue when there’s an unexpected shake-up in your livelihood.

I Don’t Have Time

While people can promptly agree on the benefits of self-learning, the challenge lies in getting themselves past the hurdle of “I don’t have time”. Arvinder accepts no excuses: he makes time for learning by listening to podcasts during his daily half-hour commute to and from work. When he can, he does the same at the gym and during lunch. Before bed, he reads for varying lengths of time, depending on his energy level on the day. In short, he has perfected the art of utilising small pockets of time to get more done. He listed out three actionable things to help achieve this:

  1. Identify your interests and seek out related information.
  2. Don’t make excuses. Find time for learning and choose a method that works for you.
  3. Discipline yourself against distractions.

Arvinder attributes his motivation to learn to an inherent thirst for knowledge and the desire to add value to the lives of those around him. Fueled by genuine curiosity, one could find ways to learn even in just a conversation with someone smarter. Being interested in what you’re learning encourages an active pursuit of betterment, even in subject matters that aren’t related to your profession. Besides, information has gotten highly accessible. For instance, Arvinder uses Twitter primarily to get insights on various topics from experts who dispense nuggets of wisdom at no cost. By surrounding himself with knowledge, Arvinder is consistently evolving and thereby making himself a valuable companion for his friends and family.

“Lack of time is the justification of the inertia of not doing something,” Arvinder added. There is always someone busier than you. If you have time for Netflix, you have time for improvement. With self-learning strategies so readily available and easily customizable, everyone can find their own cadence to learn.

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