When you decide to pursue continued learning or professional development, you are investing your most precious resource in life: time. So to make learning productive, you must make the most efficient use of this time. This is especially important since your study time is competing with other priorities in your life.

When you focus on increasing your learning productivity, you are actively engaged in delivering any of these three benefits:

* You learn the same amount in less time.

* You learn more in the same amount of time.

* You have more time for other activities.

Here are four keys (there are more) to increasing your productive learning:

Application

Adults are motivated to pay more attention to learning when they need to apply what they are learning. For example, if you are about to jump out of a plane for the first time, you will be extremely motivated to learn the skills of packing your parachute correctly and learning how to open it when you need it. In other words, a desired goal considered achievable through the application of knowledge drives our desire to learn.

Effective trainers engage their audience in exercises of application to help participants physically experience the act of application for increased learning and retention.

Action: Know your specific learning goals and how you intend to apply your learning. Write these down. Many people intellectually understand this, but they don’t physically do it. Learn to complete. Focus on finishing.

Time

The people who need to attend a time management seminar are the ones who don’t have time to attend it! But there are three ways to increase your available time in a day: Stop doing some things; do things faster; delegate.

Doing any of these three things suggests that there is an opportunity cost in what I term “time economics”. If we are spending our time on one thing, then we must forgo doing another.

Action: Measure. Keep a time journal for two weeks. Write down what you are doing at 12-minute timed intervals, or race against a kitchen timer. Trend the data. Analyse. Improve.

Sleep

An extra hour of sleep increases our alertness by 25 per cent. Plus, in the two hours between the sixth and eighth hour of sleep, our brain does the same amount of organising and processing learned information as in the first six hours of sleep.

That means that if you sleep for eight hours instead of six, you not only feel 25 per cent more alert and attentive when you are being taught something, but you also double your brain’s ability to organise the information you have learned in an easily retrieval way.

Choosing to forgo two hours of sleep to get more done in a day means you increase your awake time by 12.5 per cent (a two-hour increase from 16 hours) but at the cost of 25 per cent less attention and alertness and a 50 per cent loss in processing information.

 Furthermore, sleep deprivation causes poor decision-making, poor productivity and slows your ability to complete. You might then compensate by staying up late which deprives you of more sleep.

Action: Get eight hours of sleep every night. You will learn more effectively when awake studying and process more thoroughly when asleep.

Mindset

Effective learning requires what my V9 Profile calls a Victor mindset. People with this mindset display four of the nine character traits in the V9 Profile. They are the Seeker of answers to great questions; the Leader of self and others towards a clearly defined goal; the Developer of those around them; and the Giver of self, thanks, value, service and resources to those in need.

Cultivating a mindset of victory requires increased self-awareness and personal motivation towards delivering value. It is not ego-driven, blame-oriented or sufferer-centric. Rather, it requires clarity of direction and begins first with activating the Seeker within you.

Action: Ask positively worded, outcome-focused questions and seek their solutions. Believe that it’s possible to achieve it and have faith in yourself and others to deliver: Yes, we can!