It's worth your time and effort to figure out how to continuously improve any skill in your arsenal. If you work for someone else (including clients), you get job security: everybody loves to have an asset in their arsenal that is continuously getting better and faster.
If you work for yourself, the benefits of sharpening your strengths are even more tangible, both in and out of the office. You start to feel superhuman -- able to run faster, jump higher, work better, sleep easier.
We all operate differently, but here are five strategies that consistently work for me.
1. Track It... and Report It.
Peter Drucker's famous quote, "What gets measured gets managed," rings true here, but what gets measured and reported gets better, faster.
Find a way to quantify your skill and report it someplace. It doesn't have to be public -- a sticky note on your mirror or a number on your whiteboard still count -- but reporting your progress to an accountability partner will give you a little extra motivation.
2. Gamify It.
No. 3 in my StrengthsFinder top themes is Achiever, so gamification taps into my built-in drive for achievement. It's fun for me to set challenging goals, identify inspiring rewards, and executing. But with a little creativity, you can make anything fun.
This works for everything:
- List of repetitive tasks: How fast can I do them? How quickly can I complete the list without making a single error? Can I do it faster than the last time I did this list of tasks?
- Drinking water: How many days in a row can I drink my allotted number of ounces? How can I creatively alter my schedule (and even my path through the house) so that drinking water throughout the day becomes easy and natural?
- Squats: Every time I open the fridge, I have to do 10 squats.
- Cleaning House: Every time I enter a new room, I have to tidy, throw away, or put back three things.
3. Teach or Mentor It.
Another great way I've found to improve a skill is to teach it to someone else, whether it's a child, colleague or friend.
And you don't need to already be an expert before you teach someone else -- it's exciting to watch someone share something they've just learned.
4. Schedule Self-Improvement Windows
Most of us busy folks are schedule-driven, so the best way to make time for self-improvement is to put it in our calendars just like we would a work meeting.
Block out at least 30 minutes, and ideally an hour or more. Take it seriously: allot some time to analyze last week's effort, set targets for the coming week, and think through training logistics. Then execute.
5. Apply it in a New Setting
Nothing flexes a new skill like a change of scenery. It's the perfect opportunity to break through plateaus and make a substantial improvement in competency.
For an easy example, look to athletics. Sprinters might take to the hills for an interval workout, or do a long trail run. Same running motion, but a completely different setting.
If you mostly write tweets and short-form blog content, take some time each week to do a long-form writing exercise. Conversely, if you mostly write 500+ word pieces, challenge yourself to write a series of tweets, or haiku, or 150-word articles.
A little imagination and creativity goes a long way when it comes to skill development. Put one or more of these strategies into practice on a regular basis, and you'll be amazed at how simple it is to find the time to continuously improve any skill.