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15 Effective Methods For Busy Professionals To Master New Skills

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

Modern business is in a constant state of flux. To stay flexible and sharp, working professionals and business leaders should also strive to learn new skills to assist in their career growth.

Yet, starting and sticking with a skill until mastery is a hard feat to accomplish for busy professionals and entrepreneurs. Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council highlight the ways in which they master new skills to stay on top of their game.

1. Follow The Four Levels Of Competence

Martin M. Broadwell first articulated the mastery model in his "four stages of competence," which include: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence. First, we don't know what we don't know. Then, we do know what we don't know. After that, we make serious efforts to incorporate what we've learned into practice. Then, last, comes mastery. - Jacob M. Engel, Yeda LLC

2. Ask Yourself 'Why' And Do Your Research

Before you start committing to a new skill, first ask yourself "why do I want to do this?" and then do research. The best way to stay committed is to know the end game. Know the completion date, return on your investment, associated rewards, recognition and your why. By breaking down the goal in small chunks, you can celebrate every milestone you reach before the full completion. - Izabela Lundberg, Legacy Leaders Institute

3. Create A Measurable Goal

In the technology arena, it's mandatory to learn new skills constantly. So, before you start, establish your goal for that new skill or give a timeline. You need to apply discipline. A goal creates a game worth playing. It's why people treat themselves when they hit a goal weight, or like certificates and rewards. Games and goals keep you motivated when it's just you improving yourself. - Tracy Repchuk, InnerSurf Online Brand & Web Services

4. Observe Yourself Being More Effective

Soft skills resonate with our work in service cultures. And the way we get people to learn soft skills is to have them deliver the skill in relevant, recorded performance interactions. When you become the observer of your own behavior, you get lots of motivation to change. - Thomas Larkin,Communico

5. Know Your End Game, Establish A Routine

I took my parents and daughter to Spain. I was in charge and wanted it to be a fantastic experience. I signed up for an online language program and got up early every day (atypical for me) for four months to spend a bit of time on it every day. The trip was incredible, at times thanks to the work I had put in. Stay focused on the end game and establish a routine that you know will get you there. - Dr. Rachel MK Headley, Rose Group Int'l LLC

6. Do 30-Day Growth Spurts

Decide what skill you want to develop, and clarify what success looks like at the end of 30 days. Then, immerse yourself. Set up daily reminders on your mobile, sign up to relevant Facebook groups and follow thought leaders on LinkedIn. Find a relevant course on Udemy and set aside one day to complete it. Spend time reflecting on what you're learning. Then apply this to real-life challenges. - Gabriella Goddard, Brainsparker Leadership Academy

7. Practice In Lower-Risk Arenas

Taking on a new skill often holds serious risks. When learning a new, difficult skill, try using that skill in lower-risk settings (with your spouse, kids, friends, at your club or church, etc.) rather than having to start in the most high-risk arena: in front of your team at work. The development and progress towards competence works just as well in lower risk arenas. Start there first! - John Hittler, Evoking Genius

8. Understand Your Strengths

Understand how you best operate to start and commit to mastering a new skill. Begin by taking the Strengths Finder 2.0 Assessment by Tom Rath. It provides your top five natural talents you can leverage into strengths. Ask your friends to tell you what they think are your top three strengths. Finally, review your strengths and determine which one could best support you in learning the new skill. - Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching

9. Choose 15 Minutes A Day

Learning something new is a choice -- it should be fun. Mastery involves commitment. So often, we overwhelm ourselves with trying to set aside too much time, to the point that mastery feels herculean, heavy and serious. Make a choice to do 15 minutes a day so your newfound passion becomes a habit that's enjoyable and achievable. Add time and more intervals gradually. P.S. If you fear anything, don't. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

10. Make It A Fun Game Or Puzzle

We become what we practice, and by making it a game or puzzle that we enjoy, we're more likely to practice. When we make up the game, we get to set the rules and define what's a win this time. Puzzles invite experimenting and letting go of preconceived ideas. Games and puzzles are fun to do with others, enabling us to create a community of practice and learning together.  - Tom Hardison, Generative Leadership Group, LLC

11. Build Momentum With What You Enjoy

Learning a new skill can feel like just another thing on the to-do list with no extra time to complete. Start by asking others what experiences helped them develop that skill. Identify small activities you can easily build into your current life. Rank them by what you'd most like doing. Create momentum by starting with easy-to-accomplish activities that you enjoy. You'll see progress in no time! - Holly R. Pendleton, Envision Business Consulting

12. Take Small Bites

Monumental tasks look large when you have to learn a new software or produce a powerful sales presentation, for example. So break the book down into chapters, so to speak. Find out how to open and apply the software to one simple task. Write and practice the first two minutes of your talk or presentation. Don't move into the new hard or soft skill with the pressure to master it. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.

13. Try Using The Buddy System

When working with leaders making big changes, like trying new behaviors that will seem inconsistent with how they usually act, I often suggest they enlist help. Tell others what you are planning to do differently and why. Ask them to let you know when you're succeeding or slipping. Also, ask a peer to observe your interactions, and then tell you what behaviors they observed. Get a buddy! - Sharon Richmond, Richmond Associates Consulting

14. Stick With Positive Thoughts

We stick with what we like, so choose a skill you want to develop versus one you feel you have to develop. When we think in "have to" terms, we may resist our own best intentions. For example, "I want to go the the gym so I can lose weight and feel better" works better than "Ugh, I have to go to the gym today." Sticking with positive thoughts on the goals you set will produce long-lasting results. - Gary Bradt, Bradt Leadership, Inc.

15. Engagement Is Key

If you are going to take the time and effort to learn a new skill, make sure it's something you are excited about and genuinely interested in acquiring. When you are engaged and truly enjoy the learning process, completion comes naturally. After all, if you are having to force skill mastery, it might be time to reevaluate your career path. - Candace Barr, Strategic Resume Specialists

©2019 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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