Continuous learning is a mindset. Setting up the right tooling and channels makes learning fun and helps in adopting this mindset.
Before I joined a company where continuous learning is a common practice, I was not aware of all the benefits and the joy that learning could offer. Nowadays I can’t get enough of learning. When sharing with others how enriching this experience is to me, I regularly get responses along the following lines:
“This only applies for people working in technology; in my environment there is no need for continuous learning.”
“It’s cool you can find the time for it, but I don’t have time to learn.”
“This is typically something for workaholics who can’t stop working, even if their workday has finished.”
In general these reactions show me that learning is often seen as a task or a burden. If you are suffering from this feeling, you are doing it wrong!
Continuous learning should be fun
It’s not only about the right tooling and high quality channels, but these can make a difference and result in learning being fun! In the following section I’ll not convince you how to motivate yourself and become a continuous learner. Instead, I’ll point you the different tools and channels which I use and turned learning into a fun activity for myself.
Pretty old school, but still an important part of my learning input is found in physical books. When reading in the evening or on holiday, my preference goes to the hard copy of a book. In addition having a hard copy, brings you the joy of being able to lend a book, or to review it from time to time.
I do make use of e-books, however as stated earlier, I still prefer the physical book. However, when you need a book and you need it quickly, e-books are definitely a good choice. In addition e-books provide you with your dose of learning at a low-cost.
Listening is the new reading, and it makes commuting more meaningful. After experimenting with some free apps and free audio-books, I decided to take a paying subscription to Audible. Initially I only listened while commuting in my car, but then I started listening to audio-books at home, while queuing in the shop, …. the possibilities are endless. The biggest disadvantage is the lack of possibility to take notes, reread sections or phrases,… which makes audio-books more suitable for the lighter work.
Tip: Ask friends or colleagues for suggestions to great books. Many of the better books I’ve read were referred to me by friends or colleagues.
Articles can be consumed in a short time span. I try to cover a few of these every week on a broad variety of topics. In order to get my weekly feed of online articles I use Medium, which is a platform for social journalism, or Feedly, which is a feed reader collecting all my favorite articles in one place. Both Medium and Feedly have a web version and an app, so no excuses for not having access wherever you are.
Tip: Review and adjust your interests regularly on these apps to avoid tunnel vision.
Dedicated learning apps
I don’t have much experience here with different apps or platforms. I use Duolingo (free) to improve my French and I love it. Duolingo is a fun language-learning platform incorporating gamification and chatbots. You can quickly learn a new language by practicing just a few minutes a day.
When I’m on the road and I don’t feel like listening to audio books, I turn to podcasts. Usually podcasts are light, entertaining recordings concentrated around certain topics. I use a standard podcast app and follow a broad variety of podcasts providing me news, tech news, comedy and inspirational talks.
Videos are a great source to deepen your learning on a specific topic. You can find clearly explained information supported by good visuals on almost any subject. The combination of sound and visuals make this medium really good for a deep understanding. A nice example of a good learning series is the DataCamp playlist of R tutorials on Youtube.
In this category you can also find the well-known TED talk videos. For me, these aren’t really focused on learning any particular subject, but they serve more as food for thought.
When you are doing all of the above and your craving is still not satisfied, you can take evening classes. Much like the other channels mentioned, there are evening classes available for almost anything you can imagine. I use evening classes to immerse myself in topics I have zero to little knowledge on (e.g. a barista course). Additional benefit for the procrastinators among us is that they are scheduled and thus hard to postpone or skip.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the channels and tooling available. However, the channels and tooling above seem to fulfill my desire to learn and result in learning being fun.
Feel free to share your favorite tool or channel!