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Becoming your own expert

Gandhi said it best: “Learn as if you will live forever.” Have you ever wondered how some people seem to know so much about a topic? Personally, I think it’s because they have passion for that subject, which makes them crave knowledge about it.  I look around at some of my co-workers, friends, and family and think to myself, they really know their stuff.

We all have a niche interest about which we are passionate.  What if you were to take a subject in your field in which you already have an interest, and then learn as much about it as you could? It would turn you into an expert in that subject, setting you apart from your colleagues and enhancing your personal brand. There’s only one problem: who has the time to learn something new on top of all their other responsibilities?

What if I told you that it could be done in 20 minutes or less?  You’d probably think I’d fallen off my rocker, but hear me out.  You can become an expert on a topic in just 20 minutes a day (or less) by adding a regular block of learning time into your daily routine. It will take some adjusting to your schedule, but it can be done.

Your daily learning time is a small, simple investment that pays off big, helping you to become a more educated and expert professional. The few minutes that you spend learning something new will also give you a much-needed brain break since it’s a shift from your regular duties.

Experts say that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit. So, add a little learning to each day for a few weeks and see how it goes! Here are a few simple suggestions to get you started.

  • Pick your topic. Think about what you do: your occupation, job duties, and what interests you most in your field. Consider not just something you’d like to learn more about, but also subjects on which others may want to gain knowledge. The key to this is to focus on one topic at a time so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
  • Work learning time into your schedule and stick with it.  When I first set my goal to learn every day, this was very challenging for me. After struggling for the first week, I started blocking off 20 minutes at some point during my workday. It was never at the same time. I just looked at my daily schedule and blocked time when it worked for me that day. Scheduling this block of time helps because otherwise your learning time gets pushed to the back burner. Once you get in the habit, your learning time will be second nature and you may not need to set aside time on your calendar.
  • Don’t make learning hard or formal. Learning something new doesn’t have to be formalized. This should be something that you look forward to doing. So, don’t stress yourself out. Use tools that you find engaging and interesting. Do an internet search about your topic to find articles, books, e-books, podcasts, Ted Talks, etc. Bookmark pages so you can pick back up where you left off. If it pertains to your topic and relates to your work, the method doesn’t have to be set in stone.
  • Focus on continuation and progression. Choosing a goal can help you to stay motivated. For instance, you may set a goal to formally present your newfound knowledge to your co-workers. Since the time that you’ve invested will benefit your workplace, your goal could be to advance within your company. The good thing about tying your learning to goals is that it’s ongoing. You can always set a new goal that will drive you to continue learning each day,

To become an expert in any field, you must devote time and energy to gaining knowledge and practicing your skill.  Some say that it takes 10,000 hours of study and practice to achieve the level of expert. I agree with Gandhi. As long as you’re living, you can be learning and working towards the level of expertise that you want to achieve.


Sharine Sample is the Regional Workforce Development Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina.