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Why everyone should have a learning agenda

Bringing strategy to your personal and professional development
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Many of the world’s most successful people follow some variation of the five-hour rule, whereby they dedicate five hours each week to learning. Research has found that this kind of ‘heavy learner’ – people who spend at least this amount of time engaging in activities like reading, taking classes and watching online courses – are happier, less stressed, more productive and more confident than people who make little (or no) commitment to their learning.

We’re totally on board with this. Learning is the ‘great superpower’ we all need to adopt over the next 12–18 months. Now … before you panic and start signing up to all kinds of courses, let us reassure you: these five hours don’t need to be spent at some formal course or conference. Learning can come from writing in your journal and engaging in self-reflection. It might come from reading books, listening to podcasts or watching TED Talks. It might come through helpful feedback you receive or conversations you have with friends or colleagues that challenge your thinking. Yes, it’s also about the formal learning you gain from a course or conference, but ultimately, these five hours should be spent in whatever scenarios expand your thinking and allow you the opportunity to grow.

The task of identifying how, where and what you should learn is much easier if you have a ‘learning agenda’ by your side. This is a document that outlines your commitment to your learning and personal growth for the next 12 months. It’s different to the personal development plan you might have at work, which normally focuses on the career opportunities you’ve identified or gaps you need to develop. A learning agenda is purely about what you want to learn – a living and breathing document that should be regularly updated in line with your changing interests and goals.

A learning agenda allows you to be strategic about the content you consume, the events you attend and the people you surround yourself with. Rather than just signing up to any old conference or reading all the blogs you think might be relevant, you can look at your learning agenda and identify the opportunities that are going to help you reach your goals.

To create a learning agenda, ask yourself:

  • What are my personal and professional goals for the next 12 and 18 months, three and five years?
  • What do I need to learn that’s going to help me get there?
  • What are my current learning strategies? (e.g. asking for feedback, reading, lunch and learns, formal study, TED Talks, blogs, conferences)
  • What professional subscriptions and registrations to industry bodies do I (or should I) have?
  • What are the best books I can read?
  • What conferences or courses should I attend?
  • What mentor could work with me over the next 12 months?

A learning agenda is your plan for growth. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to create one and share it with the people who might be able to help you – whether by acting as a mentor, giving you feedback or bouncing around ideas. Your five hours of learning each week will be so much the richer for it!

– The Coach Place Global

Image by @Ben White

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