12 Ways to Keep Learning at Work When You’re Short on Time

4 minute read

Do you struggle to find time to learn new things at work? Do you have the best of intentions to spend time on your professional development but get side-tracked by deadlines? Developing your skills is important, but it can be very difficult when you’re in a demanding role. It’s Learning at Work Week, so we’ve put together 12 easy ways to keep learning at work when you’re short on time.

1. Sign-up to relevant industry emails and blogs

Whether you’re in fundraising, marketing or IT, you can sign up to relevant blogs and mailing lists to help you keep up to date with the latest developments in your industry, as well as general charity publications such as Charity Today. If you don’t have time to read these when they arrive, flag them in your inbox to read in your lunch break, in those snatched few minutes between meetings when you don’t have enough time to do actual work, or at the start of your day with a coffee.

2. Link up with like-minded charity professionals

You’d be surprised how much you can learn from others working at different charities. So why not join CharityConnect, the online community for UK charity professionals, and link up with others in the sector? Just spending a few minutes reading the conversations could be really enlightening. Or you could even start your own thread to share ideas with people doing similar roles.

Woman sitting on floor in front of sofa using laptop to keep learning

3. Listen to a podcast or watch a TED Talk

An easy way to increase your industry knowledge is to listen to a podcast on your commute (or in the time you save by not commuting if you work remotely). Charity Chat covers lots of varied topics related to the sector. Or why not watch a TED Talk while eating your lunch? Simon Sinek’s How great leaders inspire action is a great watch for anyone who works for, or wants to work for, a charity as it discusses focusing on ‘why’ you do what you do.

4. Scroll social media

Spend just a few minutes each day scrolling LinkedIn to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in your network. Or you could even create a dedicated Twitter account just to follow relevant work accounts. Then you can get a quick overview of industry news without getting side-tracked down the rabbit hole of your personal feed.

5. Watch back webinars

Do you sign-up to webinars but then not have time to attend? Often if you sign-up then you’ll be sent the recording afterwards. So why not watch one back on a Friday afternoon, even if you get on with easier tasks in the background? And you can always watch them in smaller chunks, if needed.

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6. Take a course (in sections)

This might feel like the very thing you want to do but don’t have time for, but most online training courses will allow you to do them section by section and save your progress as you go. So even if you can only manage 15 minutes a week, you will complete one eventually. Check out our courses for some inspiration.

7. Get to know a colleague

For a nice sociable way to increase your knowledge, arrange to go for coffee with a colleague you don’t know well. This way you can find out more about their role and how it fits into your organisation, as well as build working relationships.

8. Read an industry-related book

Grab a few minutes on your commute, lunch break or before you start work in the morning to read a book relevant to the sector or to your particular specialism. You could try Managing without Profit or, if you’re interested in how social media can be harnessed for charity campaigns, The Networked Nonprofit. You could even start a work book club and use your lunch breaks to discuss how the learnings can be applied to your organisation.
Woman sitting on sofa with laptop holding a mug

9. Find a mentor

Feel like you could do with some specific guidance on how to keep learning at work and progress your career? Finding a mentor could be ideal. Not only can you learn how others have approached things in different organisations, but you can get specific advice and guidance on how to grow in your role and take that next step. It’s like having your own career cheerleader! Depending on your specialism, there will be mentoring schemes you can sign up for, such as with CharityComms or CIPD, or why not put a shout out on CharityConnect or LinkedIn?

10. Form a learning club

If other members of your team also struggle to keep learning at work, or there’s a particular area you all need upskilling in, then you could start a learning club. If you all schedule out the time to learn something together, then you’re accountable to each other and less likely to cancel for other work. You could also make the most of each other’s skills by each person running a training session in their specialist area.

11. Display your goals

Write down three goals or things you want to improve on at work—just writing them down will help you to focus on them. If you already have a set of specific objectives, don’t leave them gathering dust until the week before your next appraisal, pin them up somewhere you can see them—physically or digitally—and read them every day to keep them fresh in your mind.

12. Take a break

If you’re so busy that you’re feeling frazzled and really don’t know how you’ll fit in any learning at all, then it’s time to take a break—it’s really important to avoid burnout. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your career is to take some time out to relax and look after yourself and then come back refreshed.

It can be really challenging to find the time for learning in the normal working week, but the trick is to build small amounts of time into your routines. If you can squeeze in one or two of these quick ideas then you can keep your skills and knowledge sharp. Happy learning!

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