Figure out how you learn best

By Jessica Ivins

Figure out how you learn best

If you’re like me, you’ve probably set a few goals for the new year. Maybe you want to add more healthful foods to your diet. Maybe you want to get better at speaking a second language. Maybe you want to learn a new skill to help you grow professionally.

As UX designers, we often need to learn new skills. Even if we don’t realize it, we’re constantly learning.

We often learn things when we need to. Remember the last time you were in a crunch to learn something so you could solve a new problem, or solve a familiar problem with a better solution? You might have learned something quickly, applied it right away, and moved on with your day. You might not have payed attention to your process of learning.

Over the next year, take a few moments to pause and think about how you learn best. Then, consider how to apply your successful learning approaches the next time you need to learn something new.

Think: About a recent successful learning experience

Think about the last time you learned something successfully. How did you learn it? Did you learn by reading a book? Did you learn from someone else on your team? Did you learn by watching a presentation, then diving into the problem?

Ask: Why was this learning experience successful?

Once you think of a successful learning experience, ask yourself, why was this learning approach successful? Could I use this approach again in the future and achieve the results I want?

For example, maybe you had to learn a new prototyping tool, like Sketch. Because your colleague uses Sketch often, you asked her for a quick tutorial. She sat down with you for 10 minutes, got you up and running, and voila! You were familiar enough with Sketch to continue learning the tool on your own. All you needed was some assistance to get up and running. You needed a mentor who could get you over the initial hump, and then you were on your way.

Ask: When would I use this approach again in the future?

Ask yourself, when would I use this learning approach again in the future? If I had to learn another design tool or prototyping tool, would I seek a mentor for help? Or would I use another approach? Would a mentor work well for a learning something other than a new tool? What if I had to learn a tool, but no one was available to help me? What if I had to learn the basics of content strategy, which is very different from learning a new tool? Would a mentor be effective for that, too?

The more you focus on your process of learning, the more you understand how you learn. This knowledge leads to better and longer-lasting learning.