Do you seem to do certain tasks with ease but struggle with others? Do changing trends make you feel left behind? Skill development is the answer to both of these issues and more. To reach your goals, advance your career, increase productivity, and even just improve yourself on a personal level, you have to continue to adapt and change, which means developing existing skills and adding new ones.
What Is Skill Development?
A general definition of skill development is simply working on improving your skills. Of course, there’s a little more to it than that.
The process can apply to several different things, such as:
- General academics
- Focusing on and improving weaknesses
- Developing an existing or new skill for a career
- Learning something new for work, personal growth, or a hobby
For instance, right now, you’re improving your productivity skill just by reading Onlinetivity. That’s a form of skill development. When you put what you’re learning into practice and continue to improve, you’re developing your skill.
Every Expert Starts Somewhere
Outside of the incredibly rare person who seems to have an innate talent or genius, most experts started with just an interest in a subject. They had to develop the appropriate skills to take them from complete novice to a well respected expert.
While you don’t have to become an elite expert, the more you learn and practice a skill, the better you become at it. As a result, you feel more confident. This alone boosts your productivity and gets you closer to your personal and/or career goals. After all, who is more likely to get promoted – the person who quickly adapts and develops their skills to always be prepared or the person who still struggles with their daily tasks?
Where to Start
No one really wants to think about their weaknesses. You’d probably rather focus on your strengths. However, skill development requires you to focus on both.
It’s obvious to see where you may need to improve with your weakness. It’s more difficult to see, however, where you need to improve with your strengths. After all, if you’re strong at a certain skill, why bother improving? Think about the tech industry. Yes, you might have been an expert when Windows 98 was released, but if you don’t continue learning each new Windows OS, that strength becomes a weakness quickly.
Former CEO Michael Hyatt says you need to understand both weaknesses and strengths to better focus on what he calls “areas of opportunity.” This means thinking about where you want to improve or what’s holding you back versus trying to just improve everything or be great at everything.
According to Fast Company, understanding your weaknesses also creates better self-awareness. If you’re struggling with work, productivity, and reaching your goals, improving your self awareness helps you uncover the issues and the skills you need to focus on.
When it comes to skill development, uncovering your weaknesses is a great place to start. A few ways to do this include:
- List things you actively avoid or procrastinate starting (remember, positive procrastination can actually help you)
- Consider what others have said (constructive criticism, not just negative comments)
- Look at your past failures and what went wrong
- Ask someone who’s brutally honest (someone who won’t hold back)
Identify Skills to Develop
One of the biggest obstacles with skill development is trying to become great at everything at once. You have to focus your efforts, or you’ll burn out quickly. Narrow it down to one or two skills you want to focus on at a time. Want to improve time management? Devote 20 to 30 minutes a day to learning everything you can about it and practicing techniques until you see the improvement you want.
Pick out subjects that help you with your career or personal goals. Does playing music relax you after a stressful day? Develop your skills in playing an instrument. This improves your self care and creates a relaxing hobby, which helps increase productivity by reducing stress.
How to Develop Skills
Taking classes, on-the-job training, internships, reading authoritative blogs, and even watching YouTube videos are all great ways to develop your skills. For some, being in an actual classroom works best. For others, watching YouTube videos and setting aside scheduled time to practice works well.
Check with your employer to see if they offer a free subscription to Lynda, which provides professional development courses through LinkedIn. You can also take courses at your local community college or university. Coursera and edX list major universities that offer free courses along with certificate and degree programs. Sites like Skillshare and Udemy let you take courses online on a wide variety of subjects, including productivity.
No matter the method you choose, set aside time weekly to develop your skills. This keeps you on track.
Skill Development in a Pandemic
Obviously, the pandemic changed how we learn. If you’re not comfortable with in-person classes and training, look for online alternatives. Thanks to COVID, online courses are more popular than ever. You might also consider looking for smaller class sizes or even outdoor classes.
No matter what skills you choose to develop or how you decide to learn, never stop learning. Dedicate a set amount of time each week to learning something new, improving a skill, and becoming more confident in your abilities. This is the key to feeling happier, reducing stress, increasing productivity, and becoming better at your job. Changing might be hard, but it’s well worth it.