What do CLO’s really need to know about the learning ecosystem and how to best engage their employees? We’ve gathered 12 powerful stats about how workers truly learn and fuel their careers to help prepare you to meet the needs of the workforce. Click here to view our full research on how the workforce learns.
The most intriguing part of the quote above is not that excellence comes from wanting to do better—that’s pretty obvious—but that excellence comes from consistently making gradual changes.
Merriam-Webster defines the word gradual \ˈgra-jə-wəl\ (adj) as moving, changing, or developing by fine or often imperceptible degrees.
I know that’s the recipe for the opening line of every high school graduation speech ever, but it works here. And I’m a sucker for words.
What Mr. Riley is saying here is pretty remarkable when you ponder it. How is it that something gradual—seemingly undetectable—can create anything substantial?
This is an idea that I could dwell on forever and still not completely wrap my head around. You could take a grain of sand out of the desert, and no one would be the wiser. You could do the same with a drop of water from the ocean. As humans, we are only one in a sea of billions. We’re literally just fibers in the fabric of the world. All but imperceptible.
Yet, thinking that each little piece of the greater whole has no meaning is flawed. Each little piece matters. It builds on the other little pieces around it and eventually becomes something great. Try to watch a movie on a TV with a missing pixel and tell me every tiny piece doesn’t matter.
The Compound Effect
I recently read a book by Darren Hardy titled The Compound Effect. In the book, Hardy essentially tries to break down and explain exactly how small pieces add up over time and lead to monumental results.
One of the most common explanations of this is the example of the compounding penny.
If you don’t know what that is, here’s the synopsis: say someone offered you the choice between a million dollars right now or the final sum of a penny doubled every day for 30 days (.01, .02, .04 etc.), which would you take?
The knee-jerk reaction is to take the million dollars. It seems like a no brainer. However, if you double a penny every day for 30 days, you end up with 5.3 million dollars. More than five times the amount you would have had if you took the million up front.
At first, you don’t really see any change. On day five you only have $0.16. Big whoop. You’ve waited five days and you still don’t even have enough to get a gum ball. Even at day 15, the halfway mark, you only have $163.84. Compared to $5.3 million, that’s miniscule. If you stole $163.84 out of someone’s bank account who has $5.3 million, it would be almost imperceptible. But through the power of the compound effect, the final 15 days are astronomically more lucrative than the first 15.
This idea works because gradual change is powerful when paired with consistency . At day five, you’re probably pretty discouraged. But if you stop doubling, you lose out on a big payout. The penny example is a little misleading because we can do the math and find the exact final outcome. But if you don’t know what the end looks like (as is that case with most things in life) it’s hard to feel like you’re making any progress.
Have you ever started a new diet or exercise routine and got frustrated after a week when you stepped on the scale and saw little to no change? It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t see effort right away. That’s the poisonous nature of the human desire for instant gratification. But you have to keep at it. Every effort matters if you are consistent..
Going back to Hardy’s book, he says, “Your only path to success is through a continuum of mundane, unsexy, unexciting, and sometimes difficult daily disciplines compounded over time.”
There is no quick fix for success. The only way to the top is through gradual and consistent effort. There are no shortcuts. And you may not see the results you’re looking for until you’ve kept at it for years.
The Success of Steph Curry
As outsiders looking in, successful people may appear to have fallen into their results overnight. That’s because there’s nothing newsworthy about a small change. The only way gradual effort becomes newsworthy is when it is maintained consistently over time. And that’s when everyone takes notice.
Let’s take one of the best athletes in the world right now as an example. Even if you know nothing about basketball, you’ve probably heard of Steph Curry. You have surely seen his amazing athletic feats on videos in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. But it wasn’t like that even two or three years ago.
Hardy talks about this as well.
“Don’t try to fool yourself into believing that a mega-successful athlete didn’t live through regular bone-crushing drills and thousands of hours of practice. He got up early to practice—and kept practicing long after all others had stopped.”
Out of high school, Steph Curry was overlooked by schools in big conferences. All the critics said he was too small. But he kept pushing. By the time he decided to go pro, scouts had all but declared him worthless in the NBA. Those draft reports are laughable now. Especially while read by Curry in a video touting his 2015 MVP and championship honors (something CoachUP did recently).
But Curry kept at it. He kept perfecting his craft.
“He practiced like a demon, hyper-focused on his weaknesses.” – Washington Post
Curry worked tirelessly on fundamentals—and he still does—making sure he has mastered every monotonous movement that happens in a game. That consistent effort on the simple components of the game has paid off.
“…staying on top of that simple fundamental makes you a little bit faster, a little bit more creative, a little bit more efficient on the floor.” – Steph Curry via Sports Illustrated
It’s hard not to watch in awe as Curry has dominated the game this year. Next time you watch him play, try not to see him only as he is now, but, like Under Armour puts it, as the sum of all his training. And don’t discount the power of gradual change made consistently over time, instead, try putting them to work towards your own goals.
Today, the Degreed team is proud to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Gibbon, the European creator of a popular platform for curating “playlists” of learning content. The Gibbon team will join Degreed as we continue to work to make ALL learning count.
Degreed’s mission has always been to jailbreak the degree, and make all learning matter- regardless of the source. In order to accomplish that mission, we’ve built a way for companies, employees, and individuals to discover, share, track, and value their learning. This acquisition will give Chief Learning Officers, training managers and instructional designers a more powerful and cost-effective toolkit for curating both informal learning and structured training experiences.
“As we all continue to learn from more diverse sources, gain experience, and earn new credentials and micro-credentials, we need a way to make sense of ALL of our learning.” CEO David Blake said, “That is what jailbreaking the degree means- to redefine the idea of education and skills to include everything you have learned over the course of your entire life- not just the time you spent gaining formal education.” Degreed and Gibbon will now work together to unlock the power of lifelong learning.
Gibbon’s history is that of a team of largely self-taught developers and designers. Founders Wouter de bres, Petar Radošević, and Joeri Djojosoeparto faced the challenges of self-directed learning across a massive sea of resources, and set out to make tools to help you curate all of that learning, including creating playlists for your learning. The elegance of their solutions inspired us.
Gibbon has also built a community of learners that quickly attracted experts in product, design, and web development, among other topics. Their personal leadership in those communities and the quality of the playlists created by those communities of learners and experts was highly attractive to us. The Gibbon team made the decision to join Degreed to continue their mission of improving lifelong learning.
“Degreed and Gibbon are chasing the same mission.” said Wouter de Bres, Gibbon’s Co-Founder, “Joining forces enables our team to focus on what we are most passionate about: Building beautifully simple products that help people and organizations to learn and grow.” We couldn’t have said it better.
The acquisition will create our first international office in Leiden, The Netherlands. We’re excited to add the strength of the Gibbon team to Degreed as well as the elegance of their approach to the Degreed platform.
ATD reports that only 38% of learning and development (L&D) professionals think they’re ready to meet the needs of tomorrow’s learners. This doesn’t mean traditional approaches to L&D are obsolete- they just aren’t enough anymore, at least not for today’s workers. To help L&D teams better engage employees, we surveyed 512 people to understand how today’s workforce really build their skills and fuels their careers.
We’re proud to release the research that will give you an in-depth analysis, and important insights on how today’s workers really learn at (and for) work.
In the report you’ll find 5 key findings, what you can do to take advantage of them, and a simple diagnostic to help you identify how ready you are today to meet the demands of tomorrow’s workforce.
Click here to download the report. Welcome to the future.
Isentia, headquartered in Sydney, with offices in 12 countries from China to New Zealand, is Asia Pacific’s leading media intelligence company. Staying on top of industry trends is a high priority for the business, because their environment changes rapidly.
Isentia’s media intelligence services range from software-as-a-service products to highly customized media insight, digital and content agency services. This translates into a wide range of skills across sales, client servicing, media operations, analysts, creative, IT, and HR. These team members work together to deliver media monitoring, intelligence and insights to over 5,000 clients across the Asia Pacific region.
The nature of Isentia’s business means its people need to be at the forefront of media and current events. The previous learning and development program was a series of generic classroom-based courses. This approach grew ever more challenging (logistically and financially) as Isentia became more geographically diverse and the needs of different functional areas moved beyond the standard suite of soft skills training.
Additionally, Isentia had purchased content from several top content providers like SalesDNA, Pluralsight and Lynda. There wasn’t a central location where everyone could access this content, or track usage across content providers. Isentia needed a solution that could restructure and group this training in a way that worked best for learners.
The primary challenge: find a cost-effective and impactful way to deliver relevant and tailored learning to diverse functional groups spread out across 12 countries.
Helen Thomson, the Executive Director of Human Resources at Isentia, was looking for a better solution. Isentia wanted a way to empower every employee in the organization to be able to learn what they want, when they want, both for their current role and their future career aspirations – in a cost effective solution.
Helen became interested in Degreed because it offered a cost-effective, centralized learning solution that could meet the needs of the decentralized workforce at everyone’s own pace, and time zone.
With Degreed, Isentia would have the ability to:
- Provide on-demand learning content to all of its team members regardless of their location.
- Organize and structure learning content in meaningful ways for the team.
- Provide a tool to their team members that genuinely empowers them to take control of their own development.
- Crowdsource the creation of content and learning pathways using ‘experts’ within different functional areas within the organization.
- Enable leaders and team members to recommend learning to each other and their peers.
- Track and give credit for all learning, whether an online course, article, YouTube video, seminar attended, formal education and even on the job experience.
- Tap into an existing ecosystem of learning content from around the world, including in content areas Isentia never would have had the capacity or funding to develop itself.
- Create blended learning experiences that enhance the application of skills and knowledge while on the job.
- Integrate and manage access to existing organization subscriptions to content from other online learning partners such as SalesDNA, Lynda and Pluralsight.
- Enhance their value proposition as an employer by providing access to learning in almost any area that interests a team member.
The goal was to promote self-directed learning, and empower employees to find what they need, when they need it – giving employees the tools they need to grow and progress in their career.
Degreed’s ready-made ecosystem of content was a key solution for Isentia’s needs. Because Degreed provides content for diverse job functions, Isentia could start offering learning resources to support diverse skillsets- without breaking the budget on dedicated L&D resources to build content. Degreed also offered the ability to aggregate content from any source in a way that made the most sense for Isentia employees.
Isentia now offers a new approach to learning that isn’t focused around generic classroom training. They’ve transformed themselves into an organization that values all learning and promotes career development, on all levels.
In the first three months, 36% of the Isentia workforce is active on Degreed. Collectively, they have completed 1800 pieces of learning content and 12 full learning pathways. Contrast this to the previous quarter where in the same period they were only able to deliver 28 classroom sessions to 17% of employees. Clearly the platform is opening up learning opportunities for the team.
In addition to opening up learning opportunities, employees are sharing their expertise with each other. Degreed Pathways are curated collections of content focusing on a particular topic or skill. Pathway creation is being crowdsourced at Isentia. Experts in every department are building pathways of learning content and sharing them with the rest of the organization. Content for these Pathways are being pulled from a variety of sources and content providers. Pathway creators are able to mix classroom-based training with online content plus proprietary content made by Isentia employees, and combine it all into one learning Pathway.
Isentia successfully embraced learning as a competitive advantage. Here’s what you can learn from their experiences:
1. Embrace the learning revolution. Classroom-based training alone isn’t enough for today’s fast-paced industries, or to capture how employees are really learning. Go beyond classroom training and give your employees more options to grow and progress in their careers while closing the skill gaps in your organization. Accomplish this goal with the same budget you have today by leveraging the tools of the future.
2. Enhance the ROI of your organization’s talent development activities by leveraging tools that amplify your efforts.
- One central location for all learning.
- Leverage the power of the Degreed network, the largest learning network on earth, instead of trying to buy or build all the learning content yourself.
- Remove the bottlenecks to learning and create new channels to meet the diverse needs of your organization.
3. Transform your organization into a learning culture that values all learning. Empower employees to find the learning that is most interesting for them by giving them the keys to the library.
In honor of International Women’s Day we’ve gathered 10 stories of women who have changed the world with their expertise. It goes without saying that this doesn’t even come close to a comprehensive list because, well, we’d be here forever. These women are powerful examples of leading, creating, and changing the world. Here are some of our favorite game changers:
We know and love the amazing stories of Unbroken and Seabiscuit because of Hillenbrand’s writing. What many don’t know is that Lauara has successfully brought these amazing stories to life while battling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome- a disease that at times has left her bedridden.
Hillenbrand is a woman who inspires us to commit more time to our dreams, by living with incredible focus and dedication to the hard work it takes to accomplish amazing things.
2. JK Rowling
For anyone who’s experienced failure, JK Rowling is an example of following your own path to success and believing in yourself.
Rowling was living off welfare as a single mother, writing all day in a coffee shop with her baby by her side, before she brought to life some of the most beloved books of the century. JK Rowling’s success exploded to make her the richest author in the world.
What advice does JK Rowling have for the rest of us? We all carry magic. In a Harvard commencement speech she said:
“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
Here’s how failure helped guide her:
A woman who needs no introduction. Oprah rose out of poverty in rural Mississippi, she teaches us to work hard and believe in our personal callings- here’s what she has to say about offering our personal callings to others:
4. Zhou Qunfei
Zhou is the world’s richest self-made woman. While not fond of interviews, the details of her personal story are quite remarkable. Zhou worked long hours in a factory in China making $1 a day, work she didn’t enjoy. After 3 months she quit and penned her boss a letter of resignation stating her complaints with long hours, yet also writing about how grateful she was to have the job and her desire to have an opportunity to learn more.
Her boss was so impressed that he gave her a promotion- which gave her the step up to start the leading glass screen production company, Lens Technology.
Her cousin has this to say about her: “We call women like her ‘ba de man’ which means a person who dares to do what others are afraid to do”
Zhou’s example shows us how to speak up, seek opportunity, and dare to do great things.
5A. Kat Archibald
We can’t make a list of women who inspire us and not include one of our own at Degreed. Kat is our Chief Product Officer, a leader in the community, a mom, a snowboarder, and really good at her job. Kat helps lead us on the path to accomplishing our mission, listen here for her take on diversity, growth and opening up opportunities for women.
5B: All women at Degreed
Here’s a snapshot of some of our amazing women:
Temple has autism, and successfully turned what could be perceived as a weakness into a strength. By using her unique ability to understand animals to help her, Temple became one of the world’s most respected advocates for the humane treatment of livestock. Grandin sees the world differently, and though she struggles with communication she has an extraordinary visually gifted mind that helped her be extremely successful in turning her passion into her life’s work.
Temple’s autism doesn’t define her, and your weaknesses shouldn’t either.
7. Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr pioneered the idea of a Secret Communication System through frequency hopping- the idea was so groundbreaking that many patents piggy backed from it, making GPS and Bluetooth possible. Hedy wasn’t merely an inventive genius, she was also an actress and was often called “the most beautiful woman in the world”
Hedy shows us we can be whatever we want to be, we don’t have to fit a particular mold.
8. Diana Nyad
At the age of 64, Diana Nyad stumbled out of the ocean onto the beach of Key West, Florida after a grueling world record 53-hour swim. Surrounded by her team, fans and press, her first words were: “You can chase your dreams at any age, you’re never too old.”
It took Diana 4 years and 4 failed attempts until she completed her goal of swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. You can accomplish hard things too. Here are the 3 things Diana has to say about accomplishing dreams.
Champion of the underground railroad, Tubman led roughly 13 trips to rescue family and friends from slavery. After arriving in the free state of Pennsylvania, Harriet had the difficult choice to make: stay free and start a new life, or risk losing it all by going back to save her family and friends? She chose the latter.
Harriet was a firm but loving leader who knew what needed to be done and executed it with precision. Her decisions combined with her skills and leadership qualities led to the freedom of roughly 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad.
All the women on this list have taught us important lessons about how to live, create, lead and change the world. We salute all women and want to hear about the ones you look up to, tweet us at @degreed to help us celebrate International Women’s Day!
Don’t forget to add this article to your Degreed profile by clicking the button below.
Here’s the thing: at Degreed we’ve created an awesome learning platform that gives people the power to track, validate and find learning from any source. We wouldn’t be able to do a really good job at building that without being obsessed with learning ourselves. We were thinking, what if we gave you a clear picture of how real people actually learn at Degreed? So we’re doing just that- by diving into our own habits and learning goals.
Before we start, you should know that at Degreed, each employee receives $100 a month to learn whatever they want, and unlimited additional dollars if the learning is job related. This benefit is called FlexED, you’ll hear more about that below. Without further ado, let’s meet Taylor.
Taylor Blake is a product manager who’s been with Degreed for 3 years. Taylor lives in Salt Lake City, and is interested in innovation, politics, history and solving complex problems. This is how Taylor learns:
What topics or skills are you interested in learning about?
Effective learning and product management
How do you like to learn?
I learn with books, podcasts, audio books, traditional classes, MOOCs, articles, online reading, hands on experience, and conferences.
As a Degreed employee, you receive $100 a month for learning as FlexED, how do you like to use your FlexED?
I buy the occasional book, but mostly save it up for MOOC certificates.
I quite like Clayton Christensen. He has a way of uncovering insights through developing strong theories and frameworks.
What’s the biggest takeaway from what you’ve learned in the last 6 months?
I’ve been trying to learn a lot about learning. I’ve learned a lot about how to learn more effectively which mostly comes down to using recall and schemas to solidify learning. For example, I’ve noticed the time I spend reading things online is less effective when I don’t take the time to reflect on or incorporate the things I’ve read. Using the ‘skills’ on Degreed helps me summarize and retain to make it more effective.
I also really enjoyed a book I read recently called “How to Measure Anything” which was really thorough in outlining how to measure things you previously thought weren’t measurable and how to calculate the value of information so you know where to spend time measuring. I also just finished a prototype course module from HBX on effective decision making. In the past, when faced with a team decision, it seems we often just wing it and use our intuition to come to a decision. I learned that there are clear, well researched methods for improving decision making.
How have your learning habits changed since joining Degreed?
I consume more information and am always looking to learn more things. I’m working on retaining more of my learning by summarizing and saving the most important things I learn. I use skills on Degreed to summarize things I learn, and I use pathways to organize the most important articles and videos related to the skills I’m trying to develop.
Favorite problems to solve:
I like solving big system problems. I like the macro view. I also like solving problems that will really help other people.
How does making the effort to learn something help you personally and at work?
When you’re trying to learn something you are forced to be deliberate, be self-aware, and get outside your comfort zone. While those things can be exhausting they also create rewarding, memorable experiences. I’ve seen that be true at work and personally.
What’s the most useful skill you’ve ever learned?
A skill I’ve been working on recently, which I think will pay big dividends, is to learn how to create and break habits to make the most of each day. Certain things I try to accomplish during the day suck a large portion of my willpower such as cleaning the apartment or exercising. Making those a habit so they don’t drain my willpower or mental energy would be great.
Similarly, the are certain things that I don’t want to be routine, such as the activities I do with my family when I get home from work. By breaking those routines it helps slow time down, helps you make more and deeper memories, and helps you appreciate each moment. It’s still a work in progress.
Learning goal for 2016:
Retain more of what I learn. Complete a Coursera specialization or Edx X-series.
Taylor’s Degreed Stats:
Most active skills; business, product management, education.
You can follow Taylor on Degreed here. You can also get credit for reading this article by clicking the button below. Throughout this “How We Learn” blog series we’ll be giving you a closer look at how we learn at Degreed, but we also want to know how you learn- so tweet us at @degreed and tell us what works best for you!
A few years ago I flipped my whole world around when I decided to run a marathon. Up until that point in my life, I had never run more than three miles at any given time. In fact, I hated running. But this was a goal that I set for myself to prove that I could do something difficult. So to make sure I followed through and actually completed the marathon, I made videos and blogged about the entire process.
I wanted to learn what it took to go from essentially zero to completing a marathon. And when I was successful, I would have a solid paper trail established for anyone who wanted to do the same.
However, as I made my every move publicly known, I experienced motivation atrophy. Essentially, as the likes, favorites and comments piled up on my social media posts, I began to feel the gratification that should only have come from finishing the goal. I was absorbing compliments from friends and family based on the idea of accomplishing the goal, not the actual accomplishment itself. If not kept in check, all that hollow gratification could easily collapse.
I found that all I had to do was post a picture on the trail and everyone would just assume I was out running and being amazing.
While I did complete my training and eventually the marathon, there were days when I definitely spent more time talking than I did actually doing. Yet, I still felt the same gratification.
I read a post on the Storyline blog a few weeks ago that talks about this idea. Donald Miller recounts a time he ran into someone who met the famous novelist, Norman Mailer, at an airport. The man asked him what he was working on. Mailer did not answer his question. His reasoning was simple: he did not like to talk about a book too much because it stole his motivation to write it.
Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due
Derek Sivers also backs up this idea in a TED talk given in 2010. Conventional wisdom says you should talk about your goals to your friends because then they can hold you accountable. That’s one of the reasons I was so vocal about my marathon plans. However, Sivers gave an example of a study that showed why that may not work.
In the study, people wrote down a personal goal. Half of the people announced to the whole group the goals they had committed to. The other half kept their mouths shut. Then everyone was given 45 minutes to work on something that would help them accomplish that goal. They were told they could stop anytime.
The people who did not announce their goals worked the entire 45 minutes on average, and when asked about it, said they still felt like they had a long way to go. On the other hand, those who had announced their goals worked only 33 minutes on average. And their response to the same question afterward was that they felt much closer to achieving their goal.
“Repeated psychology tests have proven that telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.”-Derek Sivers
You can effectively trick your mind into thinking you have done something, and that’s a dangerous road to go down.
Be About That Action
One of my favorite athletes is Marshawn Lynch, the recently-retired running back for the Seattle Seahawks. You might know him from his press conferences—or lack thereof—during the Seahawks Super Bowl run in 2013-14. When the media tried to question Lynch about his games, he dodged their questions and sat in silence on the media stand. He was eventually fined for not talking. Then his answer to every question was “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”
Whether you agree with the way Lynch handled things or not, his motives were essentially in line with the premise of this post. The football legend, Deion Sanders, was able to get Lynch to talk about why he chose to sit in silence.
Sanders: You kinda shy?
Sanders: You just don’t wanna talk really?
Lynch: I’m just ‘bout that action, boss.
Sanders: You ‘bout to go get it. You just like to do it.
Lynch: I ain’t never seen no talkin’ win me nothin’. You want something, you go get it. Ain’t no need to talk about it.
We can all take a page out of Lynch’s book. If you want something to happen, go get it. Simple as that. Don’t worry about broadcasting your intentions to everyone. You’ll just end up making it harder on yourself. People will pay just as much attention when you’ve actually accomplished the goal. And that gratification won’t be hollow.
Try it out for a week, and see how much more productive you are. This is usually the part where I ask you to tweet me about your progress, but I don’t want you tweeting to me until you’ve finished something this time. Deal?
You can also follow me on Degreed here, and add this article to your Degreed profile by clicking the button below.
Podcasts continue to grow in popularity — a recent Pew Research Center survey reports 1 in 6 adults listen to a podcast a month. This data comes as no surprise as recent pop-culture hits like Serial, This American Life, and Stuff You Should Know have changed how we listen, and what we learn.
By seeking out learning via podcasts we can maximize time gaps in our schedules for learning. Podcasts are also largely free and easy to access- which make them an awesome learning tool. We’re proud to announce a new feature that lets you take advantage of all that learning. You can now track your podcast listening using Degreed!
Simply choose the podcast title and episode, select the date listened, and add any relevant topics you learned about. Podcasts show up in your learning collection of everything you’ve learned.
We’re excited about one more way to help learners track all learning. Let us know what you think about the feature by tweeting @degreed!
The Degreed Team
Let’s talk about habits.
I was recently inspired by an article on the Babbel blog that had some quality suggestions on habit formation. It got me thinking about my own learning habits.
After reading the article, I sat myself down and while gently touching the tips of my fingers together, I asked myself, “Am I really doing everything I can to learn something new every day?”
I had to answer honestly. I would know if I was lying.
Medium story short, the answer was no. I can do more.
Now I know that habits are the center of many debates. Everyone has their own thoughts and opinions on how to break and create habits. With that in mind, I know that the process in this post will not work for everyone. As with everything on the Internet, take it with a grain of salt. However, it is my hope that this at least gets you to think more seriously about your daily learning habits and how to become better at adding to your knowledge base daily.
Identify an Action
Habits underlie almost everything we do on a daily basis. Yet we go throughout our daily routines all but unaware of how deep some of our habits are ingrained. The good news is that all of these habits, no matter how good or bad, can be used as tools to jump start new habits.
For the purposes of this post, let’s say you want to learn to be a better artist. First, you’ll need to identify an action that will help you accomplish that goal. Don’t make it too difficult. In fact, the simpler the better.
To be a better artist, you will need to have something to draw on, right? So let’s set our action as opening a sketchpad. That simple. You haven’t committed to drawing anything, just to open your pad.
Find an Anchor
Now this is where you are going to have to become a little more self aware. You’re going to have to identify all the ingrained habits that fill up your day. Once you start thinking, you’ll realize how many there are to choose from. It could be brushing your teeth, hanging your coat up when you get home, turning on the coffee pot, sitting on the couch after work, checking your pockets to make sure you have your keys and phone, kissing your kids goodbye, etc. This is just a quick list. You should be able to come up with many more than this.
Once you have identified these habits, you’ll need to do a little refining. Find a habit that occurs at a similar frequency to the new habit you want to form. For the art example let’s say you want to work on your art every day. So you would identify a habit that you do daily. That will be what we call your anchor.
Create a Process
Once you have found your anchor—a habit that you can piggyback off of—you will need to create a process to turn that habit into a cue for your new habit. For example, if you plop down on the couch every day after work, place your sketchpad on the coffee table. This is where your simple action you identified earlier will come into play. Once you plop down (anchor), open your sketch pad (action).
At this point, you don’t even have to draw anything. Just open the sketch pad. That might seem way too easy and pointless. However, it’s this simple action that will help you determine if you have identified a solid anchor. If you find that you just don’t have any motivation when you open your sketch pad after you sit down on the couch, because you’re tired and you want to just sit and relax, that’s probably not a great anchor to tie your new habit to. If completing the action with the anchor doesn’t make sense or doesn’t feel comfortable, try experimenting with other anchors. Maybe instead of the couch anchor, you open your sketch pad after you plug your phone in at night. There are myriad options to choose from.
Once you have perfected the simple process of anchor and action, you’re ready for the last step.
Ramp up the Tension
This is where your habit begins to take shape. It is extremely difficult to establish a habit if you go all in from day one. You might make it a week, but you really haven’t established the habit. You’ve just proven that you can do something new for a few days. This process is about establishing a real habit, and that happens slowly over time. There isn’t much instant gratification in habit formation.
Maybe ramping up the tension means starting with a simple doodle a day and perfecting some fundamentals of art. From there, maybe you start adding a YouTube tutorial or a few pages from an instructional book to the routine. Eventually, you will no longer need the anchor to cue your learning. That’s when you will know you have established a new habit of learning!
Here’s a quick recap of what we learned.
Again, thanks to the language-learning people at Babbel for informing me on this process. Like I said, it may not work for everyone. But why not give it a try? The worst thing that could happen is you cross off one more thing that doesn’t work for you. If it does work, I want to hear about it. I too will be working on my daily learning habits. Shoot me a question and hold me accountable or tell me what habits you are working on! You can comment here or tweet me at @bradensthompson.