New Tricks for Old Dogs: Find time to learn new skills for a great ROI in your career

Published On
Dec 15, 2020

You have all heard the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Unfortunately, this also often applies to people. You have probably been around a co-worker who is set in their ways, still talking about the good ol’ days before email and cellphones.

As the construction industry evolves, the companies that engage in developing their employees for the industry’s new demands come out on top. Employee development might mean adopting new technologies to improve efficiency in the office and the field. Or it might involve attending an online workshop on pricing change orders and learning common pitfalls and how to overcome them, and consequently getting paid more for the change orders. Sometimes it is as simple as a change in mindset from “This is how we have always done it” to “If we don’t get with the times, we’ll be left in the dust.”

With all the demands placed on our employees and ourselves, finding time for personal development can be challenging. Being pulled in so many different directions renders it even more important to make time to improve ourselves. This allotment of time does not have to be monumental to make a difference. In fact, a few minutes a day can have a considerable impact. Just think, an hour per week is more than 50 hours per year. So what is possible in 50 hours?

Obviously we don’t just want to start haphazardly registering for free webinars and training courses for the sake of personal development. Instead, stop and think about what will provide the most value to you or your company. To really create value, we need to think big and beyond today. Another way to look at this is the value you will get in return for your time—what will have the greatest ROI (return on investment) in the future?

From the standpoint of a purely time-for-time exchange, perhaps an hour invested will save you 10 hours in return. Looking at the value to your company, another consideration could be whether the cost of attending a workshop is offset by the increased value you bring to your role. If you send an employee to an estimating course, the knowledge and skills they gain will benefit your company by enabling them to bid on more projects or larger projects.

Personal development typically falls into two categories: knowledge and skills. Increasing our knowledge in areas such as codes, new products and industry trends is beneficial and can provide value. You are doing it now by reading electrical Contractor. Developing new skills or improving existing ones has even greater benefit. Consider how valuable it would be if you could gain relevant knowledge and learn a new skill all in the same training.

The Power of 12

At this point, you may be saying, “You’re preaching to the choir.” But when it boils down to it, how can you make time in your busy schedule to devote to personal development and learning a new skill? Use the simple process we call “The Power of 12,” which is proven to work and takes minimal effort to master.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t get any more than 24 hours in a day. What we can do is refocus and gain control of how we use that time. Stop and think: how many hours do you work on an average day? Eight hours or closer to 10, possibly more? With simple multiplication, we know this is 40 hours at least, but probably more like 60, 70 or even 80 hours per week. How can you fit another hour into your schedule for learning when you are already struggling to get everything done as it is?

Let’s start by splitting your day into two halves: before lunch and after lunch. Think through the morning half. Where can you find 6 minutes that you are wasting on low-value activities, such as surfing the web, engaging in casual chit-chat or pondering all the work you have procrastinated doing and don’t know where to start. Now, do the same thing for the afternoon. Were you able to find 6 minutes in the morning and 6 minutes in the afternoon?

Add up the 6 morning minutes and the 6 afternoon minutes. Hopefully, you came up with 12. Multiply the 12 minutes by five workdays per week. That number, 60, represents one hour of found time in your week to devote to personal development. And that is “The Power of 12.”

For some people, 12 minutes a day is a great place to start and doesn’t require much adjustment in their current schedule. If that isn’t you, you may want to spend some time modifying your schedule to have larger blocks of time, perhaps 30 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Whatever approach you take, stick with it. After a few weeks, this will become your new norm and part of your weekly routine.

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