How to gain knowledge and skills when you are strapped for time and cash

Studying _Aleks Dorohovich

If you are like me, you are probably dealing with postgrad-school anxiety. You see students piling up in  bookshops and supermarkets excited about their course load, purchasing brand new shiny stationery… Alternatively, you have been out of school for a long while, your  everyday work schedule  is not as exciting as it used to be and you keep on  pushing  aside those books that  you have been meaning to read forever or that short course that you wanted to  your employer to fund you has been declined.

You can take charge of your  learning by creating  your  own personal syllabus.

personal syllabus

(n.) structured course of  self-driven learning

This mode of study can be as complicated  or as  flexible as you would like it to be.  Let’s look at some of the tools that you can take advantage of both online and offline:

  • Podcasts and audio books.  Though I am loyal to traditional paper backs for my reading podcasts and audio books play a role in  reinforcing  learning.  This  method of learning, would be  perfect for  people  learning foreign  languages because they have practice how to make conversations. Book bloggers and Booktubers are also making the case for audiobooks and some advising like Ashley of Climb the Stacks on testing the waters with short memoirs read by the books’ authors by using apps such as Audible.

  • Webinars and e-courses:  If you are like  me and you have always wanted to  take an art  appreciation class so that  you make  your trips to the museums  more interesting and memorable  or  learn how to  code in the latest programming language but   you are not sure where to start.  You are in luck. The beauty of  living in 2015 is that we have access  to screens 24/7 so  we can take advantage of our fringe hours to  take up  new  hobbies and  hone your current skills. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as Udemy and Coursera have gained popularity over the  last couple of  years and are seen to be  the future of  learning.  In addition,bloggers  and youtubers are focusing on content  creation and developing  free and paid online courses that are range from blogging, scrapbooking,  navigating your career to playing music by ear

Bonus: 45 Free Online Classes You Can Take (and Finish) by the End of This Year

  • Books:  Media strategist Ryan Holiday, dropped out  of  college to pursue his career  while continuing educating himself by reading  primarily classics. Today, at the  age of 27, he  has authored 3 books, worked with Robert Greene (of the 48 Laws of Power fame) and appeared in major publications such as Fast Company, New York Times and Forbes. You  may argue that reading is an expensive hobby because the average book at  Text Book Centre or Books First  costs KES 1000-2500 (approx.£6-15). This is may be case but have you tried  borrowing from  your good friends or alternatively you can find books on the streets of Nairobi (a.k.a Inama Bookshop) from as low as KES 50.

Bonus: One of my favourite articles from Ryan Holiday- I’m a Millennial and I Don’t Understand My Peers—Not Even a Little Bit

  • Start an Articles Club! : I stole this  idea from the  ingenious Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo who  back in 2011 was on a mission to fight winter blues (I still can’t get used to sunsets at 4.00pm). In her  words:

    An articles club would be just like a book club, but we’ll read articles. We’d all read the same story–from, say, The New Yorker or Elle–and chat over (your drink of choice) and snacks. It would be fascinating, timely and a much easier commitment than a book club…

    This is a great idea for building  friendships in a relaxed environment with people who  love reading but  can not commit to finishing the latest Man Booker Prize book in time.  Here is a glimpse into how Joanna organised her own Articles Club

  • Volunteer:  After completing  my postgraduate degree, I decided to volunteer at  one  of the local charity  shops near my  university and  I have enjoyed every minute of it. I  have worked with people from diverse  backgrounds and  built on my customer  service and retail skills. Moreover, I have finally put  my numerous  hours on Pinterest to good use by  helping  out with visual merchandising. Working for someone for free or work-shadowing provides you with the opportunity to learn a new skill like baking, cooking, changing a tyre, floral arrangement…well the list is  limited by  your imagination and passions.

  • Visit local places of interest: Hands up, if you have lived in Nairobi (insert your city here) for over 5 years and you have never set foot near the local museum?   Dear Reader, you would not imagine the number of  born and bred Nairobians. I have never met, who have never visited  the Kenya National Archives, which is smack  in the middle of the CBD. Though these sites are meant to generate  income from tourists, they are also meant teach you about  your history so that you don’t repeat mistakes…. these could also  serve as sources of inspiration. As Ruthie Ackerman said here: Every city has its mysteries, and amazing experiences can always be found just by uncovering a few for yourself.

A minute or two on the soapbox:   Research done by Goldman Sachs and  Eventbrite shows that  apart from being the first generation of digital natives,  millennials  value  experiences over  material wealth. This is in light of the  global financial crisis  where their parents lost most of their  life savings and  are still working past their retirement age. In short, their mantras are YOLO and FOMO. So I hope that the key tourism industry players like  Kenya Tourism Board and Brand Kenya will capitalise on this and encourage  local Kenya tourism. Hat tip to Caroline Mutoko:

As we are drawing to the end of 2015,  start  planning and setting into motion  how you can use  your downtime over the holidays and from early 2016 so that  you drop off the   new-year-resolution-bandwagon by  mid-February 2016.  Please  let me know in the comments section on how you went about creating your personal syllabus  as well  as  what has worked (or not) for you. Lets’ compare  bookshelves over on Goodreads

Disclosure:  I am not being compensated for reviewing any of the  links to products and services included in this post.

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About Lillian

I am a proud student of the human experience which provides me with the perfect excuse for being a bibliophile (read: book hoarder) and the unofficial patron of Nairobi Inama bookshops. But in my past life, I was a recorder player. You can also find me on Medium (@lillianyamongo) where I discuss sustainable finance.
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