Learning is a journey.

A wonderful and fun process. Life-long learning is even better.

It’s the key to unlocking new ideas and making progress.

Learning new skills, ideas and concepts should be one of many tools you use to succeed as a person.

If you use a better approach, you are doing yourself a big favour.

And you increase your chances of retention and mental growth.

Focus on just-in-time learning

There are two approaches to learning anything:

“just-in-case learning” and “just-in-time learning”.

Just-in-time learning ishaving access to knowledge just when you need it.

Just-in-case learning focuses on gaining knowledge that may be used in the future.

“In general, you learn things in school just in case you’ll need them later. Then once you get a job, you learn more things just as you need them,” says John D. Cook, PhD.

“The difference between just-in-case and just-in-time is like the difference between training and trying. You can’t run a marathon by trying hard. The first person who tried that died. You have to train for it. You can’t just say that you’ll run 26 miles when you need to and do nothing until then, ” he writes.

Modern education is built on just-in-case learning.

School knowledge prepares us for the future, but we don’t apply everything we learn in our daily lives. It’s still very useful when the need arises.

Do you remember the dates from history you learned in high school?

Not likely unless you have had reasons to go over them in recent times.

It’s not your fault.

The brain optimises itself to help you retrieve information relevant to you.

Think of it like a little garbage collector running around in your brain, forgetting things that aren’t frequently used or depended on.

Pieces of information tend to get buried under layers of new memory that we form and use every day.

You will probably forget most of what you learn because connections tend to get blurred both from a lack of application unless you continuously refresh that knowledge.

Repetition is a way to signal to your brain that something is important and should be retained.

But after school, you are not likely to revisit those lecture notes.

You are more concerned about building a career and succeeding in life.

I studied Law and Human Social Behaviour 18 years ago.

I don’t directly apply that knowledge in my life right now, but I make some kind of connection every now and then.

I hardly remember all those technical knowledge I spent years learning or memorizing.

On the other hand, when you apply just-in-time learning to your immediate problem, you you learn something new, make progress faster and retain information better.

It changes everything.

The approach is simple:

  1. Choose your skill, or what you want to learn based on your immediate gaol
  2. Learn the concept
  3. Practice and use that skill in a immediately in the real world.

If you want to learn something quickly, immerse yourself in that thing and immediately implement what you’re learning.

The aim to gain access to new ideas, principles, solutions, and hacks just when you need it to solve problems faster and smarter.

Just-in-time provides convenience, accessibility, relevance, and efficiency.

Example, the fastest way to learn Spanish, for instance, is by immersing yourself in a Spanish culture.

I am constantly using just-in-time learning to launch projects and courses, write posts and books.

I have found it’s a better approach to remember and retain new knowledge.

ʺJust-in-time-learnersʺ only consumes content related directly to the next task ahead of them.

They immediately apply knowledge from blog posts, webinars, podcasts, videos, short training courses and expert information to successfully complete the next project and then move on to the next task.

If something interesting comes up that may be useful in the future, they put it aside into a tool such as Pocket, Evernote etc. for easy access later.

Learning to achieve an immediate goal

Knowing what you need to know to solve a problem, reach a goal, or become a better version of yourself is hugely valuable.

Success in a career is about knowing what will improve your life, how to learn it, how much of it to learn, and when to learn it

People learn better and faster when the success of the next project or task depends on it.

That’s why people tend to learn better on the job because that knowledge is being applied almost immediately.

Just-in-time learning enhances relevance by providing easy to access content.

When you identify a knowledge gap in the process of solving a problem, you will be compelled to look for solutions.

Learning at the moment of need gives you the feeling of being in control.

ʺJust-in-time-learnersʺ focus on the goals ahead of them and seek information or expert knowledge in the context of those goals.

ʺJust-in-time-learning” can truly change how much you get done versus how much you learn.

Random learning might make you feel good today, and of course, you can gain a greater understanding of the subjects or topics you choose, but if it doesn’t directly help you move forward, or take action, you are likely to forget it.

Use learning as a part of the process of getting things done, and you will significantly boost your retention rate.

For any project or task, break it down and once you have the mini-tasks that will help you achieve the bigger goal, use just-in-time-learning to help you get it faster and learn new things in the process.

Closing thoughts

There’s some benefit in learning things that aren’t immediately and directly applicable in life, but to succeed now and tomorrow in life and career, just-in-time learning is a better approach.

On-demand learning is a better way to get things done and solve work problems better. As learning technology improves, just-in-time-learning as a tool for progress will get easier.

You learn better when there is a clear, immediate need to use that knowledge because your mind is more engaged.

Balance is key if you have embraced life-long learning.

Whilst you focus on things that are immediately beneficial to your career/life, you can still learn things that might be useful sometime in the future.

Originally published on Medium.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.