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5 Easy Ways to Continue Learning

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2016-02-19-1455900351-482896-MarjorieAdams.jpgMarjorie Adams is president/CEO of Fourlane, a firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments through bookkeeping, tax, software consulting and business process training. The firm specializes in showing customers that they can continue in higher level QuickBooks products as they grow.

As the head of my company, my workload is high. Between working with clients, managing staff, meetings, traveling and endless emails, I don't have a lot of free time to stop to learn something new. Yet, just like other entrepreneurs, I know that learning might be the most important thing I should be doing.

Why be so concerned about learning? Quite simply, we live in a quickly changing world. Innovative technologies revolutionize the way we do things. I need to stay on top of these changes for my business to remain relevant and relate to the people I work with, day in and day out.

Knowing the latest trends in industry technologies also helps me create more efficient solutions. Staying on top of regulations and rules helps me understand the problems my clients are facing so that I can offer better solutions as well. The implementation of the recent credit card chip is a good example: retailers accepting credit cards must ensure their payment processing is compliant. Sharing the information I have with my clients protects them, and helps me showcase my expertise.

Yet, like others, my problem isn't really having the motivation to learn; it's finding the time. Learning also doesn't have to mean sitting in class. Here's my five-step approach:
  1. Prioritize your time. If I can't find the time, I have to make it. By committing to my desire to learn, I create space in my calendar to make it happen. I mark myself as "offline" and turn on the "Do Not Disturb" setting on my phone.
  2. Make the most of conferences and meetings. While conferences can be a beating, they are also designed to be an intense learning opportunity. I carefully choose the conferences I attend. First, I look at who else is attending whom I might benefit from seeing (customers and referral partners), and then I look at the conference sessions offered. If both are worthwhile, I attend.
  3. Join a group. I am a member of multiple national entrepreneurs' organizations that offer networking, forums, group coaching and educational opportunities locally. These activities give me multiple opportunities to learn, from the fellow entrepreneurs I meet to the speakers and courses offered.
  4. Read what you can. I'll admit that reading a book or magazine frequently falls last on my list of ways to learn, not because I don't like to read but because I drop off into sleep. If there is a book I feel I must read, I make it a group project by asking my management team to read it and schedule a time to discuss how our company can benefit from the content.
  5. Teach a class or a lesson. The most powerful learning motivation for me is teaching. If I really need to learn a new technology, I schedule a webinar to teach others how to use it, for example. The pressure of the deadline ensures that I keep focused on learning the tool. Developing the webinar content allows me to gain a thorough understanding.
I haven't even broached the topic of learning something fun, such as how to play tennis, speak Italian or cook Thai food. I really haven't had time to add those to the mix at this point in my career. But I probably should -- after all, all learning is good learning.

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