Keeping pace with new technologies is challenging—especially if you've fallen behind. However, continuous learning is a critical component of agile practices. We've all heard the excuses, and maybe we've even made the excuses a time or two. A few simple steps will not only help you get back to the forefront of technology, but will revitalize your thirst for knowledge.
Devote a specific time of day to learning
Forming new habits simply takes practice. Perhaps you have read about the twenty-one day rule that states that by adding something to your routine for twenty-one days it becomes habit. While this rule is somewhat suspect, psychologists agree that there is a time period where habit formation occurs. As the behavior becomes something instinctive, we feel compelled to follow it as part of our daily ritual.
By devoting a specific time of day to learning about the technologies, we can instill this pattern into our routine. Simply setting aside thirty minutes a day adds up over the course of a month. In an average month you will have spent fifteen hours learning. Over the course of a year, this comes to 182 hours. Imagine how much you can learn during that amount of time.
Find technologies that you find interesting
While the old saying says, "You should never judge a book by it's cover," learning a technology you don't find interesting is certainly demotivating. Find a subject that interests you. Do you feel intrigued by the mobile revolution? Then find a few technologies in the mobile development space to focus on. The higher your level of interest, the more likely you are to stick with the habit of learning. You are sure to face challenges throughout the learning process, but stick with it.
Use tools that support learning
Track learning with tools that keep a log of your time spent gaining knowledge as well as your upcoming tasks. This will help you form a daily checklist as well as help you to think in terms of a plan and create goals for learning. The tool can be as simple as the Reminders app on an iPhone or as complex as a full-blown issue tracker.
Pivotal Tracker is an excellent agile tracking tool that is free for individuals. Feed readers are also an excellent tool for learning. Add the feeds of favorite technology news sites or track specific keywords that will generate daily content. These tools can reduce the overhead of having to seek out content on a daily basis. Instead, the time set aside is devoted to learning.
Google Reader is a great tool that provides these configuration options. If you don't want to use another Google product, CNET provides a great review of Google Reader alternatives. While keeping pace with technology is a challenging endeavor, it can be achieved with effort. Simply follow these steps and you are sure to get back on the forefront of technology.
Let us know if you have any other tips or suggestion for keeping pace in the comments section below.
Jacob Orshalick is a software consultant, open source developer, speaker, and author. He is the owner of solutionsfit and co-author of the best-selling Seam Framework: Experience the Evolution of Java EE His software development experience spans the retail, financial, real estate, media, telecommunications, law enforcement, and health care industries.