Learning a new skill? All you need is … Time!

Being in Bombay (Mumbai) in the monsoon season makes you realize just how relentless rains can be. That’s probably the best word to describe the rains over the last 4 days — relentless!

It got me to wonder about how relentless am I when it comes to learning a new skill. Honestly, I have a hard time picking out which skills to master in the first place so being relentless becomes step #2 for me.

But surely I’m no benchmark nor an apt representation of the workforce at large in today’s organizations (I sure hope not!).

We all know that mastering a skill takes time and practice but ironically, that seems to be the biggest battle that organizations and learners struggle with — battling time.

So how is it possible to make time amidst all the jostling about that comes with regular work? And how does someone do that relentlessly?

The first simple step to make time could be to define what specifically would you like to master in a given skill. Once that definition is clear, it would help to break down the objectives into smaller, microscopic application points.

Defining the skill to master by breaking the learning objectives into microscopic application points

For example, as a sales rep in a financial services industry, you could choose skills such as planning, probing and answering objections to master. To break that down further, for better planning, my application points could be:

1. Identifying the right type of prospects who have a need for my product

2. Rehearsing sales proposals for important presentations in 2 minute sprints

3. Identifying the most important value proposition prior to a negotiation discussion

By making application points microscopic, you have shrunk the learning content you may need to cover and made it more precise. Instead of thinking of sales planning as a potentially 2 hour eLearning course or a one-day classroom workshop or maybe even a 60 minute coaching conversation with your sales manager, you may learn about each application point separately and in shorter time bursts that fit your schedule.

Now that you’ve made time by creating simpler objectives that could be achievable in shorter time frames, the next step is to ensure you are relentless as Bombay rain.

Again, by miniaturizing time, you have also increased the probability of investing time to learn a new skill.


Think about it this way. In a typical day at work, for how many minutes and how many times are you idle?

Here are your options:

1. 2 to 3 minutes of idle time; 5 to 10 times a day

2. 10 to 30 minutes of idle time; 5 to 10 times a day

3. 30 minutes or more of idle time; 5 to 10 times a day

You would probably choose Option 1 as the most likely or probable option out of the three. This means that by shortening the time to learn a new skill, you increase the probability of learning the skill based on your schedule. Let’s see how.

Going back to Sales planning, let’s assume that the first objective of identifying prospects has 5 different perspectives for you to learn and each perspective requires 5 minute to learn. In total, you would require 25 minutes to learn all the perspectives or nuances for identifying prospects.

Given that you may not have 25 minutes in one shot to invest, you could look at breaking up the 25 minutes into 3 minute chunks that fit your typical idle time as we saw in option 1. Assuming not every instant of your idle time is invested in learning (sometimes it’s good to do nothing, isn’t it!), being relentless in this case only requires 8 consecutive days of 3 minutes to achieve the first objective of sales planning (8 times 3 minutes ~ 25 minutes), for example.

Of course, this is just one pattern and there could be other patterns as well, such as 2 times a day, 3 minutes each for 4 days in a row. Every alternate day, randomized or inconsistent patterns, you name it.

The main point to note here is how you are able to “make time” by shortening the perceived investment of time required to master a skill through microscopic application points. This also improves your ability to become relentless in your pursuit to learn a new skill.

… and with that, the rains finally relent!

I look forward to your comments and perspectives on the above note!

Kartik from Master-OTM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *