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I have often heard my mentor say that learning can come from anywhere. It could be through reading articles, listening to podcasts or watching videos, interacting with your peers and colleagues. There is no dearth of possible sources that can help you learn, provided you are willing to learn and grow.
It also cascades down to how we learn when a large chunk of our time is spent at work. How is it possible to learn anything new while you are busy running the ‘business as usual’? We are all happy to have a designated team of L&D professionals who take stock of the learning needs of the employees and roll out workshops, trainings etc. catering to our specific learning needs. Yet, we don’t always find time or motivation to take part in these learning interventions. We cite reasons such as a busy schedule, lack of time, traveling for work, etc. to avoid structured and scheduled learning interventions. However, we all agree that constantly learning and staying up to date on information and skills required for our jobs is important. So, how can we make learning a part of our everyday work?
I have found that there are a few ‘out of the norm’ approaches that have worked for me and I’m happy to say that research backs it too. What are these methods, you ask?
Sleeping and Teaching! Yes. Appears paradoxical, but you learn when you sleep or teach.
Sleeping to enhance learning and productivity
The relation between sleep and learning is simple. The brain stores the newly acquired learning in its long-term memory when you sleep. A few minutes of undisturbed sleep helps in being creative and fosters learning when the mind is calmer and more relaxed. That’s why, catnaps in workplaces have now become a trend.
Companies in Japan allow and, in some cases, make it mandatory for their employees to catch up on their 40 winks at work. This practice of sleeping at work is called inemuri in the Japanese culture. The nearby cafes and public places around offices in Japan are designed in a manner that helps employees catch up on some precious sleep. The availability of beds with soothing music to nap for 20 minutes or doze for an hour are a commonplace in Japan. In fact, being sleepy at work is considered a sign of hard work and proof of an employee being deeply involved in his/her work. This practice is seen in other countries too like Italy and Spain, where it is popularly known as siesta and riposo respectively. In China, it is considered a constitutional right.
In the U.S.A, tech giant Google installed sleep pods in its offices, that allows employees to rest and recuperate. Research indicates a well-rested mind absorbs and store more information as opposed to a one which is tired. The energy pods in Google’s offices allow employees to tune out for a certain time and are gently awakened by the pod through slight vibrations and soothing music.
Bhim Suwastoyo, a reporter at Agence France Presse, was quite popular for sleeping under the cupboard behind his desk. In the year 1997, he was reporting the situation of Asian currency crisis, working round the clock. This arrangement helped him tuck in a few hours of sleep and not miss the calls at his desk.
So, that’s enough of social proof. Next time, if you are feeling sleepy and want to snooze a bit in your office, get a work pillow or make a quick tuck away bed under the desk. Catch up on some twenty minutes of sleep that will help you foster your learning at work. This used to be a personal practice for me before any exam in college, where my friend would be explaining the concepts whilst I slept. Everyone marvelled how I did well and now I understand why.
Learning by Teaching
The second thing that you may not have tried for learning, is to teach. While sitting in one place and poring over manuals, being glued to a screen certainly gives you the information but one way to know if you have learnt it for sure is to – Teach it to another. It may seem paradoxical that you should teach to learn but the fact remains, our understanding of the subject or topic at hand is vastly improved and the perspectives of those being taught helps us build a broader insight and understanding. Teaching prevents self-deceit of believing that you know the subject thoroughly. Drawing in your team together at the desk or calling in a quick five-minute meeting in the boardroom to share your understanding, teaching them, is a failproof means of learning.
If neither of these work for you, try the last method – interacting with mentors or experts or peers at work. Engaging with the experts in the field at work gets you hands-on information and immediate feedback on your approach. Also, exchanging stories with others, listening about their slips and falls helps you prevent making the same mistakes. The method of reverse mentoring too is a popular practice at 3M where a younger person mentors and older employee is another means of learning. There are many unconventional ways to pack learning in your work routine. What’s yours??
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