Karolina Numminen
Karolina Numminen working on a laptop at a desk, holding a coffee mug.

How to Find Time for Learning (and why bother)

What’s that one thing on your todo list that rarely gets done? My guess- learning and development. 

We all understand the necessity of personal growth to stay relevant and competitive in our fields. But most of us are highly short-term focused and buried under daily stress, deadlines, and meetings. 

I’ve been there myself, so I know firsthand that ‘simply blocking out an hour for learning in your calendar’ doesn’t work when your inbox is exploding and you’re putting out fires left and right. So, in today’s article, I’m kicking things off by discussing the importance of learning, followed by my top tips on making learning part of your every day, no matter how busy you are.

Why Bother

Let’s start by diving deeper into the why. Because once we really understand why something is relevant, it’s pretty easy to figure out how. Here are three reasons why learning is more than just another ‘should’ on your todo list:

1. The Bare Minimum Won’t Get You Where it Used to

Imagine living in the 80’s. You graduate with a business degree, which instantly makes you highly employable. So you pack your briefcase, and set out for a one-round interview, and get offered a starting job with a decent salary. If you have some rare treasure experience, such as speaking a foreign language or you spent a semester abroad, you are a BIG DEAL. So, you then proceed to do the work, and you can expect a promotion and salary increase annually. Okay, I didn’t live in the 80’s, but this is what I imagine (or dream) it must have been like. 

Nowadays? University degrees, foreign languages, studies abroad, experience from internships, additional courses, and certifications have all become the norm or entirely obsolete for your job. To move up, you need experience, connections, and that "extra something." And that's where continuous learning comes in. 

However, it doesn’t mean any random course will set you apart. Instead, focus on improving a few essential skills relevant to your field and know how to sell your expertise.

2. Learning Saves Time

In the work context, learning isn’t only about gaining new knowledge. It’s mostly about figuring out different (=faster) ways to get things done. This can involve finding and implementing new workflows, processes, or tools.

Mastering new ways of working will make your job more fun and give you time for creative tasks, big-picture thinking, or... more learning! Plus, this is exactly the edge you can use in interviews. Nobody will want to pass on you if you show you get things done faster and find the time for solving complex issues.

And finally, we all rant about the 4-day work week and wait for our companies to hand it over to us. But we can make the first step by proving we are more efficient and get more done in less time.

3. Learning Makes You Feel Good

Last but not least, it’s been proven time and time again that learning makes us feel good. Check out this article by Forbes.

Remember the thrill of understanding a tricky concept as a school kid? Why not chase that feeling more? We don’t get it very often as adults because most of our tasks are long-term projects followed by little gratification. So incorporating more learning into your day will help you regain these benefits.

So, in a nutshell, learning boosts your career, makes you more efficient, and lifts your spirits. Now, how can we squeeze it into a busy day?

How to Get it Done

1. Simplify

When we hear learning, most of us associate it with our school years- spending hours listening to boring subjects and cramming for exams. You’re an adult now. Things can be simple. If you subscribe to one newsletter, or listen to one podcast weekly, you are miles ahead of most people. So, consider the simplest and most natural way to incorporate more learning into your day. 

On the other hand, extremists among us (I am very much of them) will sign up for dozens of courses and buy tens of books, just to never finish any of them. The problem is that if you have too much going on learning-wise, once you magically find time to learn, you'll overthink which of the 50 things you have going on you should start with, ending up naturally overwhelmed. The same advice applies here: go back to basics and simplify things to get them done.

A word of caution: signing up for courses, subscribing to podcasts and newsletters, and buying books won't make you smarter! You'll need to engage with the content in-depth and apply the learnings in the real world to get the benefits. So, although I recommend simplicity when selecting the content, the actual learning process requires effort.

2. Adapt Growth Mindset

It’s great to see that many organizations are adopting Carol’s Dweck research on mindset. Her concept of a growth mindset shows that anyone's abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. No natural talents exist. So, it’s time to ditch the “I’m not good at this” attitude if you have never even tried to learn it. 

3. Outside Work Might Be the Only Option

Here’s a sad reality: Your best chance to get learning done might be in your free time. I know job ads and company websites are exploding with learning cultures, days, and budgets, but prioritizing learning in the daily stress isn’t often possible. Even if you manage to set aside time, you still face constant distractions, making it hard to focus on learning. 

I’m definitely not suggesting that after your 9-5, it’s time to spend another 8 hours cracking on an online course. As I mentioned, simplicity always wins. So, learning outside work can mean listening to a podcast during your commute or while doing chores. 

Your willingness to do this can indicate that you are in the right field. If the idea of hearing or reading anything related to your work outside of it fills you with dread, it might be time to consider if you are on the right path. 

4. Check Your Motivation

Learning new skills requires a lot of dedication. You either must be interested or have a very strong motivation. A vague image of particular skills getting you into higher-paying jobs is neither. 

Your chances of success are much higher if you get really good at something that interests you. So stop forcing yourself to take courses that would ‘make sense’ for the future and spend the time and energy on something that interests you. The rewards will follow.

Also, remember that learning is beneficial regardless of the topic. It’ll increase your brain performance and strengthen your ability to solve complex challenges. So, if you are a newbie to learning, don’t worry too much about the content and focus on building the learning habit and skill. 

5. Make Use of Any Opportunity

Your company may organize formal training for you and your team. But, commonly, we dismiss these as irrelevant and a waste of our precious time. As a result, we don’t engage, do something ‘more important’ on our laptops, or skip the training altogether because we are too busy.

Disregarding every training as ‘irrelevant to me’ is the only guaranteed way to learn nothing. Even in the most generic all-company training, there is always the potential to uncover a useful takeaway or a new idea. You just need to be willing to find it. This goes back to my rant about simplicity- if you take just one thing from these trainings and implement it, it’s a great win for your development. 

6. Learn from Experience

How did you learn to do your job? Probably by just doing it. Learning on the job is often praised as the best way to learn. We hope that by just doing our jobs, we will improve our skills and progress. And the truth is we will, but very incrementally. We'll always lag behind the fast-running world and those who decide to invest more time and effort in their development. 

If on-the-job learning is your only option, do it at least the smart way. You can start by reflecting more on past events. Take important moments in your job (good and bad), pause and evaluate what happened, and think about how to course-correct the next time a similar situation occurs. 

It can be a 5-minute thing that results in insights that will last you a lifetime. We often quickly brush off what was and chase the next thing, especially if some experience was unpleasant. However, a proper reflection is the easiest way to get closure and grow.

Teams should always do this- after a successful and especially an unsuccessful project- get together and discuss what we learned and what we will change next time. It’s as simple as asking two questions, and you have done more than your annual learning budget and all-company trainings can achieve.

Karolina Numminen

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Wrapping it up

Learning is more crucial now than ever, and it’s way more than just adding another “should” to our to-do lists. It’s about finding quicker ways to do things, feeling that rush of finally understanding something tricky, and of course, getting that edge in our careers. 

We all can fit learning into our packed schedules—it’s about making it simple, finding what excites us, and utilizing every chance to learn, even from the mundane stuff. So let’s shake off the “too busy” mentality, dive into every learning chance we get, and enjoy the growth.

Karolina Numminen
Author:
Karolina Numminen

Hi there!

Thank you for reading! I'm Karolina, a career coach with a passion for helping people have fulfilling and successful career journeys. I love writing about all things work and sharing the insights I’ve gained from years of coaching clients.

I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn and continue the conversation. I’m always curious about different professions and career paths!

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