Organize Yourself in 2015–Build Time for Upgrading Your Key Skills


In Stepen Covey’s classic book on self-improvement, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he says that you have to build time in your schedule not just for production, i.e., getting things done, but for building your production capacity.   In other words, you need to upgrade your key skills so that you can get even more done in the future.

However, you have to be willing to sacrifice some production time.   In economic terms, it’s like the production curve we all learned in our introductory economics courses.   If you invest some of that production into research and development, you will produce less in the short term than someone who gives 100% of their resources to production.   However, in the future you will see the production curve itself move outward as the fruits of that research and development increase your ability to produce.

In the eleventh chapter of his book Eat That Frog!, Brian Tracy recommends three general tips for upgrading your key skills.

I will add a prerequisite for this list as my bullet point.

0.  Identify

Of course you need to identify those key skills.   Whatever you do for a living, what are the top three skills you must have to be promoted in your field?   In my case, I want to be a project manager for an international company so the top three skills I concentrate on are:   a) project management, b) communication and leadership skills through Toastmasters, and c) foreign language skills (through Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and other applications).

1.  Read

Read articles or books in your field, between 30 minutes and 60 minutes per day.   Of the 12 areas of my life that I schedule into my yearly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, and then daily goals, “Reading” is one of them and I put it right under “Professional Development” and right before “Language Learning.”

2.  Study

Take courses and seminars available on the key skills.   Nowadays you can find more and more webinars that are free, but you should also invest in quality courses which will stretch your knowledge boundaries through interaction with the instructor and the other participants in the seminar or course.

3.  Listen

Listen to audio courses when driving in your car.    When I moved from New York to Los Angeles, the daily commute was quite a culture shock.   As opposed to the subway, where I could read a book, driving took most of my attention and I had a lot of it do, since I had to drive an hour to and from my workplace.   However, I decided to take Brian Tracy’s advice, and I turned my car into a university lecture hall with the various lectures from The Great Courses company, and I practiced my foreign languages with recordings from Michel Thomas, Pimsleur, and the Foreign Service Institute courses that are in the public domain.   I don’t know if practicing foreign languages calmed me down while driving, but at least I had a choice of languages to use to swear at the other drivers if necessary!

Essentially, these three ways to build on your key skills are to mind like daily exercise is for your body.   But like Brian Tracy recommends, you need to build these into your schedule.    Pick at least one extra “area” for you to create goals for, and call it “Professional Development.”   I split mine up into three parts, “Professional Development,” “Reading,” and “Language Learning”, but as long as you put it SOMEWHERE in your schedule, you are making a continuous investment in yourself that will reap dividends in the years to come!

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