learnerYou’re busy. You have deadlines to meet, errands to run, and occasionally some “down time” where you try to squeeze in something fun or relaxing. If it’s your job to create training then you do that a lot too. But how often are you a learner?

We can talk about putting ourselves in the learner’s shoes all we want, but the best way to “be the learner” is to actually be one. It’s almost impossible to look at your own work with a fresh set of eyes, so you need to find manageable (and preferably enjoyable) ways to expose yourself to new subjects, methods, and the like.

Here are some ideas for summer fun that can help bring you back to learner hood:

Start a New Hobby

You learn the most when starting something completely new. After all, you’re working on going from clueless to competent, zero knowledge to a working level of knowledge. That’s a big leap. But it can also be very rewarding.

I once received an orchid as a gift. It was lovely, but all I’d ever heard about orchids was that they’re next to impossible to take care of. I didn’t want it to die on me, so I ran some Google searches. Within about an hour I’d gained a passable understanding of orchid care. And you know what? They’re not that hard to take care of after all. Most people water them too much and/or too often, which is often what kills them. If you forget to water them for a while they’re actually pretty tolerant.

Play Some New Games

There are lots of games out there: board games, card games, word games, video games, smartphone games, good ol’ run-around-outside games, etc. Many games only require a limited time investment so they can be a quick, fun way to learn something new.

Have you ever played Dixit? How about Zombie Dice? Forbidden Island? Go out and find something you’re not familiar with at all. That way you don’t have any preconceived notions and you’re going in with a blank slate. Game shops are a great place to find unusual games “in the real world.” If you’re more interested in mobile or screen-based games you can check out your app store and find a free offering that sounds promising. For those who prefer PC gaming, there are a number of gaming services that often have some free-to-play games as well.

Read a New Book

There’s plenty that can be learned from books, both non-fiction and fiction. A “how-to” book is pretty straight forward. It exists specifically to teach something. But novels can be incredibly powerful as well. Research findings indicate that reading literary fiction increases empathy. By going through the story from the main character’s perspective, the reader is basically running a mental simulation of what it would be like to live through those events.

This one is pretty easy to do. Chances are you have at least one unread book lying around your home or an unread ebook on one of your devices. And you probably have a local library or bookstore. Don’t think you have time to read? Start listening to an audio book in your car and you can be “reading” while you’re stuck in traffic. Smart.

Talk to Someone Who Does Things Differently Than You

“Differently” could mean a number of things. Maybe they have the same job you do but their personal workflow is different. Maybe they’re employed in a completely different field. Or perhaps they’re in a different department or division of the same organization. Basically, talk to someone new.

A month or so back, I had an extended conversation with a fellow customer in a car repair shop. (Luckily I was just there for an oil change). That person worked in marketing, which I have a little familiarity with. Likewise, they had some awareness of learning and development. We must have talked for at least half an hour and I left the experience with a broadened perspective.

Whatever you do to make yourself a learner again, do it deliberately. See when you have “ah ha!” moments and feel a sense of accomplishment, when are you lost, what makes you think “that was way more confusing than it needed to be,” etc. Start a new hobby, play some new games, read a new book, or talk to someone new. And enjoy your summer!

If you’d like to read more about training, learning, and instructional design check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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