Developing new skills: Tips to Start
- Booking quality time
- Training your mind to concentrate and to be curious
- Act “as if”
- Develop enthusiasm
- Set goals
“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time.” (J. Wooden)
Yet many people see the time for learning (typically school or further education) as coming before the time for working and progressively lose the desire and capacity to acquire new skills and knowledge. Often people read less and less, attend training courses without any conviction or endeavouring to apply the theory learnt to everyday working practices. It is typical for people to continue doing what they do best, without testing their ability to learn something new. All this leads inexorably towards the progressive obsolescence of people’s professional skills and the risk of being shut out of the working world.
To avoid running the risk, it is of the utmost importance that you devote part of your working day to developing new skills, based on your interests and on the experience you gain as well as on the opportunities and innovations offered by the outside world.
To start planning how to further develop your professional skills, here are our first five tips:
Book quality time
This is why it is essential that first you evaluate and select the skills you wish to work on and subsequently “study” them in depth, scheduling the right amount of time to do so, not just odd moments. Developing skills requires the kind of concentration and attention you can only muster up during quality time.
You should consider skills development a fundamental part of your work and as such, it deserves the most favourable conditions.
Training your mind to concentrate and to be curious
If you are really determined to develop new skills, you must counter this natural tendency by training your mind to be curious and to concentrate.
One thing that may prove useful, for example, is to go to new places and socialise with a different set of people, as well as reading books and magazines on subjects you are less au fait with. What you need to do is practise finding stimulation in unfamiliar environments and then to look for connections with your work. As sustained concentration is hampered by a hyper-connected lifestyle, you should make a habit of directing your attention to a few things at a time for prolonged periods. For instance, try setting aside an hour a day in which you focus entirely on developing your skills and switch off all your electronic devices for that time.
Act “as if”
Avoid falling into these traps by acting “as if” you already have mastered the skills you are trying to develop. It isn’t a trick, rather it is a sort of role play that can help you overcome your fears and reluctance and put into practice what you have learnt as a means of further improving your skills.
Marathon runners or athletes accomplish almost impossible undertakings, such as running for hundreds of miles in the desert. To succeed, they never think of the entire task ahead. Instead, they break it down into small, achievable targets and focus only on the short distance that separates them from the next step of the race. This is an excellent technique to apply to your professional development. Split your ultimate goal into a number of targets, define how you will know when you have accomplished them and set time limits that are challenging yet doable the get going, taking one step at a time.
#theartofworking is the art of investing in yourself every day