Deliberate Learning

Fake news flash! The agrarian schedule for education that caps at 16 years (bachelor’s degree) is sufficient in a world where knowledge is rapidly expanding. Really, there are people that believe they are done learning with a tassel shift on graduation day from college. 

‘Deliberate learning’ is a practice that I believe in and encourage. It aligns with my “learn by doing” mantra as well. To define it, deliberate learning is conducting an activity with the specific purpose of learning something new. Deliberate means deciding on what to learn. This is separate from the incidental or experiential learnings that happen as we go about life, family and work; it means you are being proactive in trying to learn something new. Fun can (and should) be part of learning – the goal should be personally important and measurable. And don’t forget: thinking about what you have learned (and want to know more about) then describing these gaps, is reflection. This is an important part of the process as it allows you to see how far you have come.

two mature students learning on a computer

I plan on 5-8 hours per week of deliberate learning. Mostly I trade TV time for learning; the US government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021 reported that adults watched over 3 hours of TV per day. I shift a small amount of TV time – about an hour every day to learning something new. My practice for deliberate learning includes many resources and activities including these:

Reading: fiction and newspapers are good but deliberate reads on topics that are tough and require focus to understand will exercise the brain.

Videos: screen time is part of my practice! I like the e-learning video platforms like Udemy and Skillshare (I prefer Skillshare personally). And of course, Youtube. There is a lot of great content on YouTube to learn from. Professional meetings and seminars (like those by the Richmond chapter of the American Marketing Association) are wonderful. 

Lectures and seminars: luncheon speakers and small groups hosted by experts at local ad agencies are events that I look forward to. Seminars can be great places to learn, both online and in-person. If the speaker is an expert and the fees are reasonable, it can have a positive mental Return On Investment (ROI). 

Podcasts: listening to these when I’m traveling makes sure that even when I am on the move, I am learning. I have also listened to over 100 audiobooks from Cracker Barrel’s cool CD rental program over the years. 

Doing is a part of the process as well. In the past, I have built websites just to solve a particular technical challenge and then deleted them in the AWS console. All of these become ingredients for my deliberate learning recipe. 

It is easy to get started. Turn off the TV for an hour and reflect on what you are curious about. From that first hour, you can build more ways to learn and take better advantage of your time. 

What are the benefits to deliberate learning? There are many and some very personal. Mine include welcoming new ideas, a creative boost and new technical skills. Just like daily exercise and a balanced diet, learning new things can be rewarding.

Note: this post is updated from a previous one on my site from several years ago.

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