5 Steps to Learning New Skills to Escape Rutville

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Everyone loves being in a groove. Work is easier when you’re in a groove, with fewer obstacles to overcome and less stress and anxiety slowing you down. You know what to do, and you know how to do it. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

But what if your groove is actually a rut?

Most of us find a groove through repetition, by doing something so often that it’s almost automatic. We’ve learned all we need to get the job done. We get comfortable. But over time, comfort breeds boredom. Welcome to Rutville.

I’ve been there. In a previous job, we became very good at what we did, we all grew comfortable in our positions and, after several years of consistent growth, we found ourselves just sort of treading water, individually and collectively complacent.

After that experience, I’ve committed to picking up new skills that will lead to new challenges and open new doors in my career. I touched on this subject with a blog post last summer but let’s dig deeper with some of my favorite tips discovered while researching the best ways to develop new professional skills. I’ve included links to the sources to help in your own quest for growth and improvement.

1. Define your goal
This one is absolutely vital because with no destination in mind, how can you ever chart a course? As I mentioned in my previous blog post, an easy way to identify a growth opportunity is to look for an existing need and then commit to obtaining the knowledge, training and/or skills required to fill that need. Or maybe you’ve got a passion for something outside of work, an itch you’ve wanted to scratch for years but have never felt qualified to purposefully pursue. What are you waiting for?

2. Know how you learn best
Self-awareness is critical in life, particularly as it relates to personal growth. After you’ve defined your goal, it’s time to map out your plan. Any teacher will tell you their students learn differently, a fact of life that holds true no matter your age, so don’t assume a method that worked for a colleague, your spouse, a friend or some blogger spouting career advice online (ahem) will work for you. Draw on past learning experiences and look for similarities in those times when you’ve thrived and those when you’ve struggled. This step helps you set yourself up for success, rather than dooming yourself to failure.

3. Eliminate distractions
This gets harder and harder as technology conspires to keep us more and more distracted. Our phones. Social media. Games. TV. Coworkers. Even when we feel like we’re devoting “quality time” to our goals, these things (and so many others) can make it nearly impossible to focus on the task at hand. Figure out your most persistent, obstructive distractions and eliminate them.

4. Test yourself along the way
Fortunately, there are loads of resources that can help with this step, depending on what you’re trying to learn. As you pick up blocks of information during your training, take a step back and test your knowledge up to that point. Don’t wait until you’ve reached your goal; testing (and retesting) along the way will help the most important information sink it.

5. Set a deadline
Some research suggests you can learn a new skill in as little as 20 hours. That’s not much at all! But rather than meandering through your work until you feel like you’ve accomplished your mission, put a marker out ahead of you and commit to learning your new skill by a particular date. I love the idea of setting the goal at 90 days because it seems like a sweet spot of sorts, a deadline that’s not too short but it’s also not too long, giving you enough time to log your 20 hours without allowing you too much time to stray off course, lose focus and ditch your goal altogether.

So what need are you going to fill, and what skill will you learn to fill it? Define it, map out a plan that works for you and get it done in 90 days!

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