I love learning. Like, loooooooooove learning. When I was in school, it was easy (and expected) for me to learn new things every day. Now that I’m out of school and no longer have outer accountability pushing me to learn each day, the onus falls on me.
Without even realizing it, I tailored my environment in such a way that I continue to learn new things each day with little effort. Not a day goes by that I don’t dive a little deeper into one of my passions. Today I want to share with you some simple things that I’ve done to make learning a part of my daily routine.
1. Podcasts and audiobooks
This likely isn’t news to anyone, but there’s a reason that podcasts and audiobooks have become so popular recently. I just want to reiterate how wonderful they are.
It took me quite a while to finally get on the learning-through-audio train because I always felt like it wasn’t my thing. I preferred reading physical books (and admittedly still do), but to my surprise, audiobooks are great.
If you’re hesitant about the medium, I strongly suggest giving it a try. Getting a free trial of Audible is pretty easy, and if you have a library card, Libby allows you to check out audiobooks from your local library for free.
I was also skeptical of podcasts, even in the face of their growing popularity. Something about listening to other people talk just sounded… boring. Turns out, I was so wrong. Podcasts quickly became one of my favorite ways to not only learn new things but also stay entertained. At this point, I’m a little disappointed that I don’t have even more time to listen to podcasts.
Podcasts and audiobooks help you learn by letting you take advantage of the moments in your day where you don’t really need to focus on anything important. They’re great for when you’re driving (especially long distances), cooking, cleaning, showering, relaxing, or trying to look busy at work.
There’s such a variety of podcasts and audiobooks out there that you can use them to learn about pretty much anything. Whether you want to get motivated, get organized, stay up-to-date on the news, or learn about a specific topic, there’s something out there for you. And—contrary to my own misguided beliefs—they’re not boring.
I’m not going to go into book recommendations in this post because there are soooo many great places to find book recommendations (start with my recommendations, my Goodreads, and /r/suggestmeabook) if you’re really feeling lost.
On the other hand, podcasts can be a little intimidating to navigate. At this point, everyone and their mother has a podcast, so it can be overwhelming to find ones that you like. And, since it’s so easy to start a podcast and share it with the world, there are also plenty of terrible ones out there. To help you out, here are some of my favorite podcasts for when I’m in the mood to learn:
SYSK, as it’s often shortened to, is a long-running podcast with over 1000 episodes. The hosts, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, cover a wide variety of topics, from caffeine, to diabetes, to Black Friday. They’re not afraid to go off on tangents and always great to keep you entertained during a long drive.
The Daily Zeitgeist is hosted by Jack O'Brien and Miles Gray and is a weekday podcast that comes out Monday through Friday. Each episode is roughly an hour long and explores “America’s shared consciousness” to keep you up to date on news and pop culture. TDZ can be a little heavy hitting given our current political climate, but it’s also laugh-out-loud hilarious and regularly has me stifling giggles at the gym.
Produced by Roman Mars, 99PI dives into hidden elements of design that we may not notice in our everyday lives. It’s one of the most interesting podcasts that I’ve ever listened to and is a great way to stock up on fun facts to share with your friends.
The Ask A Manager podcast does just that. Real manager Alison Green takes listener questions and answers them with thoughtful, insightful advice. It can help you get ahead in the workplace, deal with difficult employees and coworkers, or set you up for a successful interview experience.
2. Install a language learning app on your phone
If you’re looking to learn more in your day-to-day life, why not start with making the most of the tools that you already have around you? The vast majority of my readers own smartphones. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re reading this on a phone right now. If you’re like me, or like most smartphone owners, and don’t go anywhere without it, then you already spend an impressive amount of time around one of the best educational tools in the world.
In our increasingly interconnected world, learning a language is one of the best educational decisions that you can make for yourself. It can help you land a job, connect with a friend, or explore another culture. And your phone is a great tool to help you get started.
As you may or may not know, I love Memrise. I’ve been using it for nearly a year now to explore languages that interest me, and it’s helped me make my screen time a positive factor in my life, rather than a negative one. When you have apps on your phone that help you learn, those little moments that we spend on our phones become educational.
You could even pair this with a language-learning podcast and boost your learning speed.
3. Become more intentional with your YouTube consumption
According to this article from 2017, we watch a billion hours of YouTube per day. I’m sure that number is even higher in 2019. How many of those hours are yours?
The thing about YouTube is that its content covers a very wide range of topics. There’s plenty of YouTube out there that is purely for entertainment. Nothing about it will improve your life or teach you anything.
On the other hand, YouTube is also the first place many of us go when we want to learn just about anything.
Somewhere in between the purely educational (how to unclog a drain, for example) and purely for entertainment (cats, anyone?), there’s a whole host of YouTube channels that are both entertaining and educational. By unsubscribing from some of your biggest time-wasters and subscribing to a few channels that teach you something useful, you can help yourself learn new stuff all the time with almost no effort.
With the breadth of educational videos available, your best bet is going to be to find videos about things that you’re passionate about, but if you aren’t sure where to start or are looking to find some interesting new channels, here are a few of my favorites.
The Bon Appetit YouTube channel gives you an entertaining glimpse into the Bon Appetit test kitchen. You’ll meet Chris, Carla, Andy, Molly, and a host of other chefs as they teach you how to make exciting foods, often while they're learning new things as well. Even non-foodies will likely enjoy watching Claire make fancy versions of your favorite snack foods on Gourmet Makes, and It’s Alive with Brad takes you around the country to explore where food really comes from.
If you like me, you’ll like Amy. She’s one of my biggest inspirations and is a large part of why I started this blog. She’s serious about productivity and organization and doesn’t deal with nonsense. She’s here to help you “go after the life that you want.”
MuchelleB is another source of inspiration for me. She’s a lot like Amy, but a bit more gentle and not quite as intense. Her videos will inspire you to get your life together, step out of your comfort zone, and start living more intentionally.
Lastly, if you want to take an even bigger step forward, you could spend a little bit of your YouTube time on *Skillshare instead. Skillshare is an online learning community with videos by experts to teach you any skills that you’re interested in learning. I’ve recently started exploring Skillshare (currently I’m taking a course on creating productivity systems that work for you), and I'm finding it quite helpful.
4. Tailor your Instagram feed
Just like YouTube, many of us spend quite a lot of time on Instagram. It’s easy to get sucked in and scroll for waaaay longer than you intended to without even realizing how much time has passed. In fact, that’s exactly what the people behind Instagram want you to do.
But, unsurprisingly, there are educational Instagram accounts out there as well. When you follow those (and maybe unfollow people who are constantly trying to sell you things), you create a feed that isn’t as much of a time-sink.
Again, the Instagram accounts that you follow should be tailored to your interests. If my suggestions don’t interest you, find some that do.
Melissa Alcantara is a personal trainer and all-around motivational badass babe. If you’re looking to stay motivated to hit the gym while learning some new exercises that actually work (most “fitness models” on Instagram are not a good source of workout plans!), Mel is my favorite.
US National Parks
I went on a 10,000 mile road trip last summer that took us through roughly a dozen US national parks. Since then, I’ve been set on learning as much as I can about the different parks, and following their Instagrams is a great way to do that. Choose your favorite park and search them up to see if they have an account. Many of the parks regularly post interesting photos about what’s going on in the park.
I’m also going to take a sec to plug my own Instagram which is full of healthy food and fitness motivation, if that’s your thing.
5. Encourage your friends to talk about their passions
Our friends’ habits rub off on us. I’ve talked before about how the people that we interact with most impact our actions. Chances are, your friends are pretty interesting people.
So often, we go into conversations thinking about what we can say. We want to talk about ourselves and rather than ask questions, we point the conversations back toward things that we already know about.
Rather than focusing on yourself, next time you have a chance to talk with someone, make a conscious effort to ask them more questions. If they talk about a class they took at the gym, ask for details. If they talk about a meal that they made, ask how they made it.
Ask for opinions, advice, and more information. Most people are thrilled to have a chance to talk more about the things that they’re interested in, and this gives you a chance to learn new things.
Plus, learning one-on-one from someone who has personal experience with something gives you deeper insight into what it’s really like to do or experience that thing. Then, if you choose to attempt it one day, you’ll have an easier time getting started.
In case you hadn’t noticed the pattern, I want to point out that several of the things on this list relate to tweaking the media that you consume. You’re still using many of the same platforms and devices, all you have to do is a bit of intentional curation.
We already consume so much content each day, often without even realizing it. Just a few simple swaps can add an impressive amount of education to your daily life. You’re already off to a great start if you’re reading this blog. Keep going! :)