How to keep honing your skills and remain productive at work

9 min read
Dan Hughes

Whether you’re a small business owner, a solopreneur or a creative looking to climb the career ladder, honing your skills is the key to reaching (or even exceeding) your professional goals.

But, as valuable as honing your skills may be, when your professional and personal lifestyle is busy AF, finding the time to learn can be a big challenge.

While striking the right work-life-learning balance takes a little finesse, it is possible. By finding the time to develop your skillset and stay on top of work, you will open up new opportunities and thrive in your professional as well as personal life.

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The best way to hone your skills while keeping on top of your work (and still enjoy a decent amount of downtime) is by getting into a lifelong learning mindset.

Okay, this may sound a little jargon-like, but I’m going to walk you through the concept while looking at practical tips on how you can keep upskilling while bossing it in the workplace.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

The everlasting value of lifelong learning

Did you know? According to 2021 stats from Statista, the average amount of hours spent by employees on learning & development (L&D) is around 64 hours per year across industries.

This insight alone demonstrates the value of professional learning & development and its vital role within the workplace. An extension of L&D, lifelong learning is the concept of committing to developing your personal and professional skills throughout the course of your life.

By adopting a lifelong learning mindset, you will develop habits that will empower you to hone your skills in a way that empowers you to perform well in your existing role (or business venture) while continually moving forward in your professional life.

 Getting into a lifelong learning flow can potentially come with its fair share of perks—including:

  • Remaining relevant in your role or niche and keep up with technological or industry changes
  • Developing skills that will help you thrive in your current role while helping you navigate problem solving challenges with confidence
  • Becoming more agile and adaptable both in the workplace and in your personal life
  • Acquiring knowledge that will push you ahead of the competition and open up unexpected professional avenues
  • Becoming more attractive to potential employers or business partners
  • Increasing your earning potential

Read: Our essential guide on how to level up your education for free to kick start your lifelong learning journey.

How to hone your skills & keep on top of your workload: top tips

Now that you know all about the benefits of stepping into a lifelong learning mindset, let’s look at how you can create the habits that will make it possible. Without further ado, here are my top tips on how to hone your skills and keep on top of your workload.

Etch out your pockets of time

Often called time pockets or pockets of time, this technique is something that has helped me strike a solid work-life-learning balance even during life’s most hectic periods.

Even the busiest bees among us will have frequent Pockets of Time during the week that we can dedicate to a little learning. The way to etch Pockets of Time out successfully is by noting down your weekly routine in a digital calendar and drilling down a little deeper to find small pockets of unoccupied space.

These Pockets of Time could come in the form of sitting on the train during your daily commute, the parts of the day where the kids are having a little TV time or even half of your daily lunch break. Even 20 minutes a day will make a huge difference to your personal learning and development—as long as you keep things consistent, your skillset becomes as sharp as a bed of nails.

Here is a little framework you can use to etch out those all-important Pockets of Time:

  1. Set up a digital calendar (or analogue one if you’re old skool)
  1. Add all of your regular routines and commitments to the calendar
  1. Color code them into categories (for example, red for meetings, blue for planning, green for admin, orange for family commitments, etc.)
  1. Block out some evenings or for downtime and personal time
  1. Seek out your Pockets of Time and commit to a minimum of 15 - 20 minutes of learning at least four times a week

Absorb content that’s relevant to your industry or niche

Without a doubt, one of the most effective ways to hone your skills and take on fresh knowledge is to absorb relevant educational content during the workday.

Once you’ve etched out your Pockets of Time, you can set aside 10 minutes of time in the morning, afternoon or evening to read a news article, how-to-based article, eBook or whitepaper related to your niche or industry. In addition to reading valuable content, you could listen to educational podcasts while you’re working, taking personal notes as and when you feel the need.

Keeping up to date with relevant industry trends is as valuable as learning new competencies. So, do a little online research to find content that will help you hone those skills while keeping your finger well and truly on the pulse.

Read: 5 awesome podcasts for entrepreneurs who want to start, grow or improve their ventures for a little content absorption inspiration.

Anyone who stops learning is old, at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.
Henry Ford

Attend virtual workshops and seminars

One of the benefits of living in the digital age is the fact that it’s possible to connect with people and attend events from wherever you are in the world.

In the midst of the remote working revolution, there’s more flex when it comes to productivity and delivery than ever before. With this in mind, attending virtual conferences, workshops or seminars will give you the power to keep learning at the times as well as the pace that suits you.

Whatever your niche, industry, or area of expertise, you will find a treasure trove of virtual events that will help you keep developing your skills while keeping on top of your workload. Here are some places that will help you with your search:

  • Future Learn offers a wealth of industry-recognized online learning courses and experience that are self-led and you can tackle at your own pace
  • Eventbrite is an excellent tool for finding virtual events seminars, events, and workshops on just about every topic imaginable
  • The TED Talks library is one of THE most inspiring, educational, and thought-provoking spaces for professionals looking to hone their skills. This platform also advertises it’s live talks and events, so keep those eyes peeled

Bonus tip: Make sure you never miss a learning opportunity by joining relevant newsletters or setting up calendar alerts for upcoming events and workshops.

Apply your newfound skills in the workplace

This may sound obvious but you’d be amazed at how many professionals overlook this essential habit. To make the most of your newfound skills and develop them further, you should apply them to your current role where possible.

Many people make the mistake of thinking the skills they’re learning or sharpening will benefit them in their next role or professional chapter. But, the fact is: there’s no better way of sharpening your skills than practicing them almost everyday while earning a living.

Take a moment to map out where your newfound skills will be useful in your existing day to day role or duties and start rolling them out. Not only will this accelerate the learning process, but it’s also likely to boost your work performance ten-fold. It’s a win-win.

Use productivity tools and apps

Last but certainly least, using the productivity tools and apps that suit your needs will help you hone your skills while keeping on top of your workload.

From communication and collaboration platforms to marketing design tools, time management apps, and beyond, there are a wealth of innovations available at your fingertips in today’s digital age. Embrace the tools that are on offer, weave them into your everyday routine, and you will strike the perfect work-life-learning balance in a way that is sustainable and stress-free.

Take the time to explore the various productivity tools on offer, use them to your advantage, and you will push yourself ahead of the pack.

Read: 5 ways to focus under stress while working to keep a clear, cool, and confident head when navigating those dreaded ‘hectic’ periods.

Final thoughts

Commit yourself to lifelong Learning. The most valuable asset you will ever have is your mind and what you put into it.
Albert Einstein

One of the best things about adopting a lifelong learning mindset is that by forging the right habits, not only will you be able to hone your professional skills without affecting your work performance—your newfound daily habits will also sharpen your soft skills.

Keeping on top of your workload while upskilling yourself does take a little practice, but you can do it. In summary, here are the essential tips that will guide you to success:

  1. Etch out your Pockets of Time
  2. Absorb content that’s relevant to your industry or niche
  3. Attend virtual workshops and seminars
  4. Apply your newfound skills in the workplace
  5. Use productivity tools and apps

We wish you the very best of luck on your lifelong learning journey and for more professional pearls of wisdom, read our essential guide on overcoming fear or failure.

Disclaimer: Opinions belong to the authors alone and does not necessarily represent the views of GoDaddy. All trademark rights belong to their respective owners. Third-party trademarks are used here for demonstrative and educational purposes only, use does not represent affiliation or endorsement.