this article first appeared on Entrepreneur.com
Knowledge is power. A simple adage that has lost some luster due to overuse and dismissive familiarity.
Yet never before has knowledge been more powerful than in today’s hyper-competitive business landscape. In order to stand out and rise above the competition, you need to continuously boost the skills that make you different and keep you in demand.
But there’s a problem.
Your daily life is overrun by a fragmented and relentless onslaught of information, often clouding your ability to learn effectively. You consume randomly and absorb partially. Extracting value and gaining clarity from within the storm of daily distractions remains a substantial challenge.
In order to filter out the noise and gain sustainable knowledge, you need to establish a strategy that embraces unconventional methods of learning.
Traditional ways of learning such as reading physical books or attending classroom training in person are no longer viable long-term strategies for learning growth that will keep you on pace with your peers. It’s simply not scalable.
To advance past the competition and to enhance your ability to learn, you need to hack your process. You need to find alternate methods, medium, and modes of consuming content.
Here are six simple ways you can hack your learning process and set up a foundation for consistent personal development.
The root of all learning rests in the quest for information related to particular questions you have. But too many times people are apprehensive when it comes to asking questions. Don’t be.
If you sit quietly at a meeting, afraid to voice your question in fear that you will be seen as too inexperienced or generally unaware, you need to change your behavior immediately.
You should embrace the opportunity to question everything. Never be afraid of backlash, scoffing, or any other negative reaction to your questions. Those who seek insight and further information are those who will gain a deeper level of understanding. No matter how influential your role or title is within an organization, or how minimal your position, retain an outward and vocal thirst for knowledge. The irony is that most of the other people in the room have the same question but are afraid to raise their hand.
Society has advanced and your options for continuous learning are abundant. Explore new and exciting platforms for learning and see what tools resonate most with your personality and learning style.
Sign up for online courses, subscribe to blogs that offer free email courses in return, peruse the app store and try multiple apps until you find one that works. Learning on your terms has never been easier. Attend virtual seminars or conferences held across the world from the comfort of your home on your schedule. Watch TED talks for quick hitting tidbits that will open your mind to new thinking and alternate perspectives.
Don’t settle for what you are familiar with. Instead, go beyond your comfort level and try something fresh and exciting.
You have the same 24 hours in your day as the most successful people in the world. How you utilize yours is what makes the difference between success and mediocrity.
Find those times in your day where you are not being productive and see if you can exploit that time to expand your knowledge.
Spend the time during your commute listening to informative podcasts instead of the dizzy drivel of the morning drive show. Browse websites in your niche while you wait for your coffee to brew. Listen to an audio book while you mow your grass.
While it is important to have down time and to escape the rat race from time to time, it is equally important to optimize the time you do have and to carve out moments where you can further your personal development. Look for those times in your day and start to capitalize on their hidden benefits.
Learning about something is great but breakthroughs only occur when you sit down and get your hands dirty. Your learning needs to morph into a model of personal experimentation and exploration.
You learn best when you perform the tasks yourself.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t believe you will appear ignorant because you don’t already know how to do it. Embrace your inner child and approach everything with anxious hands and a playful thirst for experiencing what it is like to actually do something.
As you start to gain more knowledge and establish multiple methods of content consumption you need to establish a reference repository for use going forward.
When you solve a problem or come across an article that provides insight or strategy, organize and save it. This not only allows you a central location for keeping your personal knowledge library but also enables an expedited path for retrieval and use when needed.
The world is changing at a rapid pace, so fast that it is hard to keep up. The technology we mindlessly use today was only a dream just a few years ago.
For you to stay relevant and in demand, your skills need to adapt and move forward as well. Avoid being the dinosaur in the office or the company that is overrun by innovation.
Even if something appears to be outside of your particular business niche, its impact and relevance to your success may remain. Keep your ear to the street and pay attention to new technologies that come along. Then think how they may apply in your business. The next big thing may not be in your industry but it may set a shift in the market that ultimately impacts your life.
Integrating these strategies into your daily life will allow you to effectively consume information that will serve a purposeful part of your business and an integral part of your personal growth. Knowledge is power, yes. But now is the time you use your power to harness that knowledge for long-term success.