"Whether it's learning a language that you've always wanted to learn, or delving into Ancient Greek history, keeping your mind and brain active by learning something new will really help cure potential boredom during lockdown," Chris Jones, the director of sales and marketing at the London-based adult-education company City Lit, told Business Insider.
The tricky bit — whether you're on furlough, unemployed, or still in employment — is knowing how to learn new skills successfully in unusual circumstances.
With this in mind, here are 10 tips from Business Insider:
1) Manage your sleep
A good night's sleep isn't only for restoring energy. According to the National Sleep Foundation, your procedural memory will be enhanced by better sleeping habits. For example, you'll be able to master a new task (like learning how to play a tune on the piano) more effectively than if you were sleep-deprived.
2) Decide what you want from an online course
Whether you're after serious study or just a bit of time-killing fun, options exist for everyone. World-renowned universities like Harvard and Oxford offer online courses, as does the Open University, the UK institution known for offering degrees that can be studied remotely. There are also dedicated adult-education courses designed to be studied from anywhere, such as those offered by the London-based City Lit or the website MasterClass, in which experts from various fields teach their skills through online lessons.
3) Check how widely your online course is recognized
Just because a course isn't offered by a big-name university, that doesn't mean it isn't recognized or rigorous. At the same time, some online courses don't offer everything they say. The key is to actively look for accreditation: If a course is accredited by an official educational body, the course's website will state this with evidence. You should also look for the course's contact details and perhaps consult reviews of the course before you even consider paying.
4) Apply your existing skills in new ways
Upskilling doesn't necessarily mean starting from scratch. For example, a children's-book author and illustration student named Kelley Donner recently told Business Insider how she combined her writing and drawing skills to create a children's book explaining the coronavirus pandemic in a child-friendly way. In the process, she's effectively become a teacher to her three young sons, and she said some other teachers had asked to use the book to teach about the virus.
5) If you're unemployed, treat your learning as if it's a structured job
Julie Bort, a Business Insider correspondent who has worked from home for 20 years, wrote that it was imperative to try to start and finish your day at set times. As such, if you're furloughed and looking to be productive, the key is structure. Make the most of your free time; but at the same time, you still run the risks of burnout if you work too late.
6) Proactively set your own objectives where objectives aren't provided
Granted, many online courses — particularly the pricier ones — come loaded with a neatly packaged set of objectives. But there are two main disadvantages to this. First, those objectives may be too easy or too hard for you to achieve. Second, ready-made objectives don't encourage you to think reflectively about what you're actually learning.
7) Create a clearly defined study zone
Working in a calm, yet structured environment is paramount to productivity. Fast Company recommends overstocking your work environment with supplies like pens and snacks to minimize the time spent dashing around your house to fetch things. At the same time, make it pleasant: comfortable, green, and — where possible — lit by natural light.
8) Overcommunicate with tutors and fellow learners
Though the emergence of tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams has made remote learning possible like never before, it's important you put them to full use in lieu of in-person interaction. For example, Slack suggests screen-sharing between tutor or teammates when learning a new process or receiving feedback. Instant messaging alone can often leave too much room for misunderstandings.
9) Consider choosing something in-demand ...
Coding has perhaps never been more in-demand, and many programming languages can be learned both remotely and cheaply or even free, if you're disciplined enough. The internet is awash with online courses claiming to be able to teach coding, so you'll need to choose wisely.
10) ... but not unless it genuinely interests you
This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Demand in the marketplace for a skill can't be your only reason for learning it, because even if you do land a coding job, you won't perform well if you hate it. A 2015, multi-university study into the effects of boredom on the workplace found that boredom could give rise to "errors, adverse patient events, and decreased productivity." That might sound blindingly obvious, but amid all the hype surrounding "in-demand skills," the obvious can be easy to ignore.
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