I’m not one of those people who feels overloaded by information. I am excellent at multi-tasking and unless something completely throws me for a loop, I normally don’t drop too many of the balls that I’m constantly juggling. I field instant messages, email, RSS feeds and people walking into my work space all day long. I don’t skip a beat. My work gets done.
But, all of that goes out the window when I’m trying to learn something. I need quiet. I need peace. I need a way to zone out and allow myself to fully engage in the learning situation I’ve embarked on. And, that’s not easy to do in the chaos of a normal work day.
So, here are few tricks that I learned along the way.
- ·I try to find a quiet conference room and hide. People assume that I’m in a meeting and I don’t get too many people looking for me. I also shut off my email and my instant messenger. I confess to being one of those people who cannot let an email go by without reading it. So, shutting my email off completely takes away the temptation.
- Blocking time off in my calendar shows people that I’m busy and usually stops people from pulling me into last minute meetings. And, if I can, I try to schedule that time first thing in the morning before I get caught up in the day and decide to put it off.
- Earphones go a long way in quieting the chatter around me if I’m sitting at my desk. And, I don’t mean iPod ear buds. I use the old school, big, honking ear phones. People can easily see that I’m listening to something as they walk by my door.
- Finally, I really try to focus on only the learning – for the duration of the learning event – without allowing myself to be interrupted. Stopping and starting gets confusing. It also forces me to go back a bit when I re-start because I have trouble remembering what I started to learn during my previous session. Spending uninterrupted, dedicated time stops me from spending extra time re-doing work if I have to start and stop a few times.
Our learning consultants suggest a range of other useful tactics as well. They suggest a door tag – much like a hotel room ‘do not bother’ tag - that indicates learning is in progress and to please allow for some privacy. They also suggest a learning version of caution tape; A funny way to make the same point.
We all agree that learning is a critical piece of growing on the job. But, time isn’t usually on our side. The trick is to find what works for you and utilize those tactics to ensure that you give yourself the time and space to learn. It’s not always easy but it’s surely worth the effort.
By: Rachel Levine