Gini Dietrich

Don’t Be Scared: You Do Have Time for Online Learning

By: Gini Dietrich | October 24, 2017 | 

Make Time for Online LearningWe are nearing the end of our scary month, which has hopefully had the opposite effect on you—and has made some things much less scary.

For instance, we talked about how easy it is to create a content strategy.

Sure, it may take a little more time on the front end, but boy! When you are finished, all you have to do is execute.

No more stressing about this week’s topic. It’s already done for you.

Once your strategy is complete, you can move to keyword research.

Which I know is scary for non-SEO folks, but Moz and Google have made it so easy, you’re silly to be fearful of it.

And last week we discussed the challenges PR agencies face.

We live in scary times right now.

Our industry has been evolving faster than technology* in the past 10 years.

(*Might be a slight exaggeration.)

It’s incredibly difficult to keep up.

But don’t be scared!

We are here to help you.

Online Learning and Your Gym Membership

Today we’re going to focus on online learning.

With so much out there, it’s hard to narrow it down, choose one or two things to focus on, and get to work.

I totally get you.

Every week I get the email from Coursera with the online courses they think I’ll enjoy.

And I feel guilty deleting it.

Big data, deep learning, mental tools, neuropsychology, mindshift, game theory…oh, my!

Online learning is kind of like going to the gym.

It’s an investment.

Both promise to make you better, healthier, and smarter.

Online learning even promises to make you happier, richer, and more popular on top of that.

But, just like the gym membership that goes by the wayside by the middle of February, online learning can easily drop to the bottom of the priority list.

When it comes to the gym, you don’t think:

Do I have time to go to the gym?

Rather, you think:

I have to make time to go to the gym.

We’re already conditioned to know we have to make time to go to the gym.

You have to do the same with online learning.

If you don’t, you may never learn anything new again.

And that is scary.

Make a Commitment to Online Learning

The first, and most important step, is to make a commitment to online learning.

I just read The Conversion Code…twice.

I’m not great at reading business books.

By the time I shut my computer down at night, my brain wants nothing more to do with business.

(That and I much prefer fiction.)

So I carve time out during the day to read.

It takes a little longer to get through books this way, but it works.

It goes on my task list: read The Conversion Code.

And then, every day, I read a chapter.

Or half a chapter.

Or three pages.

Whatever I have time to do that day.

Because I treat it like a task during my work day, I do work alongside it.

I have three pages of notes in my notebook from reading that book.

And, after having read it (twice because I didn’t want to miss anything), I have more ideas for better sales conversions here.

If Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos can make time for online learning, so can you.

Slip Online Learning into Your Day

To make time for online learning that lasts more than a month, there are a few things you can try.

You certainly can create an item on your task list, like I do.

Or, you can:

  • Learn strategically. Figure out what you’d like to learn in the next 12 months and create a list. Maybe it’s how to measure your work or to join a group that will push you and hold you accountable. Or you want to be a better speaker or learn about blockchain. Whatever it is, create your list and then find online learning that will help you. Mike Connell has a great round-up of the best online courses.
  • Retain more of what you learn. Not only is it important to choose your online learning wisely, it’s also important to retain as much useful insight. Use the three principles of impression (pause to really visualize or understand what you read), association (connect new content with what you already know), and repetition (reread or take notes) to accomplish that.
  • Switch up your routine. The right routine can eliminate a lot of stress from your days, but sometimes what you gain in productivity and comfort you lose in creativity and learning. For that reason, if you want to be a constant learner, consciously force yourself to shake up your routine every once in awhile.

Free Resources for Online Learning

A couple of years ago, Maqtoob founder, Kristyna Zapletal, wrote the 37 best websites for online learning.

The list is still applicable today.

It includes the usual suspects, including Lynda, Coursera, and Udemy.

And it includes courses where you can learn:

  • How to code
  • How to work with data
  • A new language
  • How to expand your knowledge
  • New skills (such as playing the piano or guitar)
  • More about business

Free Up Hours Every Week for Online Learning

Enter some math.

I know, I know.

You went into communications because you hate math.

But bear with me for a second.

Let’s look at some statistics:

  • The average online learning video is five minutes.
  • Americans spend 608 hours on social media.
  • And we spend 1,642 hours on TV.

Between social media and TV (Netflix binge, anyone?), we have 2,250 hours every year that could be spent on online learning.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you only want to devote half of those hours to bettering your brain.

Now you have 1,125 hours to spend on online learning.

If the average video is five minutes, you have time for 225 videos this year.

That’s four videos every week—or 20 minutes.

That’s less time than you have to spend in the gym.

With a commitment to spend 20 minutes every week, you’ll be smarter, richer, happier, and more popular.

Do You Want the Status Quo?

The alternative is, of course, the status quo.

Not learning how to do something faster, better, easier…staying the same.

Which is OK if you’re fine with where you are right now.

But what about five years from now?

Ten years?

What about the other people in your field who invest time in online learning?

How do you keep up?

As you begin to finalize your 2018 plan, include online learning in it for yourself.

Twenty minutes every week.

Four videos.

You can do that.

image credit: Pixabay 

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Debbie Johnson

    I think about the gym this way: “I want to go to the gym.” And I do because I’ve had two parents with poor health and I’ve seen firsthand the effects of not taking care of yourself.

    Which leads me to my second point. You have to think about online learning and professional development the same way. You have to want to do it, and you should want to do it. That means you have to make time for it. It’s another form of taking care of yourself, like going to the gym or finding another exercise activity you enjoy and do consistently.

    A friend of mine was telling me how his life feels like Groundhog Day because he can’t find time for working on developing his brand and professional development. I told him to set aside 30 minutes a day. Everyone can find half an hour.

    • Great additional points, Debbie. When you relate it to health(care), it hit my personal buttons. Having lost several of my closest family members, I’ve made self care a priority. I *want* to do the same with online learning AND I need to make (find) time, Gini. 🙂 Thank you, ladies!

      • Yes, yes, yes to all of this. You have to make it a habit. Just like people who decide to go to the gym to “lose weight quick” or “shape up for summer.” It’s an add-on, not a habit. Not part of what makes up your existence. Learning is that way too.

  • Dawn Buford

    I think it’s all in how you approach it. Pick a project you know you’ll enjoy, but requires learning a new skill. Chances are, while learning that new skill there will be other things you learn as well. I learned basic Spanish watching a weekly series that the BBC offered, complete with an interesting ‘drama’ unfold (novella style), and quizzes throughout. It was fun and informative and didn’t feel like a slog to get through. Look to YouTube, podcasts,, and other online resources. There is so much out there that can and will benefit everyone’s learning style. And seriously, you need to keep an open mind, keep your skills sharp, and stay ahead of the curve to succeed.

  • I love the book idea. I’m similar in that after work, when I walk Oliver, I don’t want to listen/read work related things. This includes business books, or podcasts that are specifically business/industry related (although I get a lot of professional value from those which aren’t, but that’s another story). So about two months ago I started to listen to industry/business podcasts and books when I get ready in the morning (wash face, put in contacts, etc.) and commute to and from the gym. I’m already in work mode since I’ve worked several hours in the morning prior to getting ready and I get in a good hour of professional development time. It’s awesome and has been so helpful to expand my knowledge and keep up to date on things. That’s time that was pretty much dead before, that I’m no able to fill in a valuable way

  • Yes, it’s all about the habit. Getting on the bike, going to the gym, writing. I took a 52-week writing challenge that was SO HARD when I first started. And then it wasn’t. Writing something every week became part of my process. Yes, I fell off the rails a couple of times. Fell out of the habit. So you have to get back into it. Nothing worth it is ever easy, otherwise everyone would be doing it.

  • Learning something new every day is huge!
    The best time for me to learn is in the morning. Earlier this year, I found the schedule that works best for me and I was able to include daily learning in it. I look forward to my learning lessons in the morning, whether it’s reading or listening a book, a podcast, a blog post, or an online course. In the end it is a habit born from the desire to be a better version of you every day.