In today’s fast-paced business world, continuous learning is not just a buzzword, it is a necessity. Professional development not only elevates skills and careers but also spurs personal growth. The tricky part? Balancing its undeniable value with the pressing demands of the average workday. Carving out time for learning is a genuine challenge for all workers, and leaders in particular.

Learning might not scream “urgent,” but sidelining it is a gamble on future success. So, with packed schedules, how can you keep learning? Here are some hands-on tips.

Commit the time.

Establishing a learning routine is a powerful act. It goes beyond merely allocating a regular time for learning — it is about preserving its sanctity. So, when you earmark time, guard these slots fiercely. Close that email inbox. Mute your social media alerts. How about using your commuting time? You can swap out your usual playlist for an educational podcast or audiobook.

Many people still associate development with formal learning methods like taking a course. But what today’s workers need are small, easy ways to make development part of their day-to-day. Practicing micro-learning moments is a memorable and simple way to kickstart the habit of continual improvement. Effective micro-learning moments usually take less than 10 minutes, and they’re small but significant in their impact.

The beauty of microlearning lies in its flexibility. By replacing idle moments with quick lessons – be it short videos, succinct articles, or other learning material – you’re making a conscious choice to prioritize meaningful content. And it’s remarkable how these quick sessions, when consistently embraced, can sum up to substantial learning time.

Lean into your network.

While microlearning offers quick, daily insights, the power of collaborative learning in teams cannot be understated. Your “development network” – the community of your workplace peers, mentors, and experts – is not only enriching but also a time-efficient strategy to bolster learning.

Team-based learning goals, for instance, make learning a collaborative endeavor. Each team member commits to an online course, a TED Talk, a podcast or audiobook, or seminar. They then share their learnings with the group, magnifying the impact of their efforts. In age diverse teams, especially, it facilitates “reverse mentoring.” The fresh perspectives of your younger colleagues can offer a fast track to understanding the latest trends and tech.

Sharing development priorities has multiple benefits. First, it prompts learners to identify what development they want to focus on, and sharing their goals increases accountability. Second, it removes the idea that learning from others is linked to levels and hierarchy. Finally, when team members see their managers setting and sticking to development goals, it prompts them to do the same. When everyone contributes and shares, it fosters a culture of mutual encouragement and collective growth.

Seize the moment.

While proactive, scheduled learning sets a solid foundation, it’s equally important to remain agile. This is why “just-in-time learning” can be an important complement to your established learning routines. Imagine, for example, a conflict brewing between yourself and a colleague. Instead of solely relying on past tactics, you can quickly tap into online resources or webinars on conflict management. You can thus adapt your foundational knowledge to the current challenge with innovative techniques.

In the same vein, there’s immense value in post-event reflections. After meetings, presentations, or conversations, regularly taking the time with your peers to discuss what went well and what could be improved can support and transform your structured learning.

Stay the course.

Tracking your progress and staying motivated are pivotal to harnessing the power of continuous learning. Monitoring progress not only optimizes your learning time, it boosts motivation and efficiency.

Learners must manage procrastination, waning motivation, and information overload in their development journeys. Carving out time for learning is one thing; sticking with it is another. To counter the challenges, begin with clear, achievable goals. Upon reaching milestones, whether it is completing a course or dissecting a hefty report, reward yourself. Rewards – whether a cherished treat, a momentary break, or a well-deserved spa day – can keep you engaged and moving forward.

In the hustle of professional life, prioritizing learning can seem like an added task. But, the more you take control of your development, the better you’ll be able to avoid the career mistakes that will get in the way of your growth. Recognize your unique learning style and reflect on which methods resonate and yield results. Remember, lifelong learning is not just about career advancement — it is a journey of personal growth and discovery.


Forbes (2023, August 23) ESMT Berlin Executive Education: How to Make Time for Professional Development
Harvard Business Review (2023, June 29) Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis: How Managers Can Make Time for Their Own Development