Top 10 strategies for learning new skills

Published on: Fri, 27 Jan 2023
By: Claire, redwigwam

Jobs and work are changing all the time – and to progress in your role it’s important to learn new skills (upskill). Doing so means you stay relevant, potentially get noticed for a pay rise or promotion, or get yourself in the best possible place for better job opportunities.

But the thought of learning might seem daunting – especially when there are so many self-led courses around. Where do you start – and how do you keep on track?

To help get you started, we’ve pulled together this list of 10 strategies for learning new skills – which can be applied to almost anything in your professional or personal life.

1. Understand the goal – why are you doing this?

It’s all well and good deciding you want to learn a new skill. But if you don’t have a reason for doing so – the end goal – you’re more likely to fail.

One of the most cited reasons for upskilling is related to your job. Perhaps you want a promotion or are looking for a new job and there is a particular skill you need to achieve this. The motivation is then obvious – and it’s much easier to set a timeline for achieving success.

So, think about WHY you are doing it and what the end goal is. Visualising this means you’ll be more likely to succeed.

2. Ditch your learning style – and instead focus on the best way to learn the skill

So, say you want to learn to knit, but your traditional learning style is by reading… It’s never going to work. The only way you’ll master knitting is by, well, knitting.

Same applies to learning a language – you can read the textbook, but you also need to listen to podcasts, watch TV shows and speak with a native speaker.

See where we’re going?

Focus on the best way to learn the skill – and remember this can be more than one way – and embrace it.

3. Practise makes perfect

We all learn best when were able to practise the thing we are trying to learn. You can theorise over something for ages, but it only starts to click when you’re doing it.

Trial and error is key here. It’s OK to make mistakes (more on that later), but as the saying goes, practise makes perfect.

So, dive on in and give whatever you are trying to learn a go.

If you’re looking for job-related skills, this is where working for redwigwam can be a brilliant option. Because many of our jobs don’t require any experience, you can try a range of different jobs and decide what you really love doing – and what you don’t.

There’s never any obligation to accept work – just to turn up for the jobs you do book.

It’s a fantastic way to upskill – and earn money at the same time.

Looking for a more flexible way to work?

Nine to five doesn't exist in our world. Join redwigwam and find work that fits in around your lifestyle.

4. Spend more time working on the things you find difficult

Let’s face it – we’d prefer to do the stuff we enjoy and which we find easy! But that doesn’t necessarily help when you’re trying to learn something new.

Avoiding the difficult stuff will almost always be a blocker to your success.

Now, if something genuinely is difficult, it can be disheartening to spend all your time only doing that and not feeling as though you are achieving anything. Have a look at number 6 to see how breaking tasks into smaller chunks makes them seem less daunting.

You could also try using a mentor to navigate the difficulty (more on that below) or you could try and use a timer technique to work on the things you’re avoiding.

The Pomadoro technique is well used to help people focus on tasks (I’m personally a big fan!)

It works like this:

  1. Choose a task
  2. Set a 25-minute timer
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings
  4. Take a 5–10-minute break
  5. Repeat. Every 4th 25mins should be a longer break.

5. Learn from your mistakes

No one gets it right first time. We all make mistakes – but how about you reframe your mistake as an opportunity to lean and develop?

Look at what went wrong to understand why it happened. Identify what will prevent you from repeating the error. Experiment with different approaches – remember, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to learning. Ask for help if appropriate. Learn from what went wrong and move on.

And don’t make the same mistake twice!

6. Eat the elephants…

Wait. What?

Well, we don’t mean eat an elephant… But it’s a brilliant analogy for breaking stuff down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

If you were given a whole elephant and told to eat it – well, you’d find it impossible to know where to start. And most likely, wouldn’t start at all.

But if you split that elephant up into smaller, manageable portions, and gave yourself an appropriate period to ‘eat’ them, well, it’s suddenly much more manageable.

So, apply this thinking to learning a new skill. Break it into smaller parts and tackle them one at a time.

Before you know it, you’ll be upskilled – and looking for your next challenge!

7. Remember: nothing worth having comes easy

Learning something new isn’t going to be easy. So, remember the end goal and think about how you will feel when you have achieved it.

Set targets along the way – and reward yourself when you reach them.

If you hit a stumbling block, pause, reflect, refocus, and move on.

8. Ask questions

If your upskilling involves formal learning with a teacher, you’ll be asked questions along the way to check your understanding – and to keep you engaged with the task in hand.

Asking questions is equally important – if you don’t understand something ask. If you’re not in a formal setting, use Google, ask your peers, look it up in a book!

Asking questions means you are really thinking about what you are learning and will stir up other thoughts and ideas on the topic.

9. Get the right support

Upskilling, like goal setting, works best when you are accountable.

We’ve mentioned a couple of times in this article the importance of asking for help when appropriate – this could be in the form of finding a mentor to guide you on your upskilling journey, or simply making yourself accountable to friends, family, or colleagues.

So, tell people what you are doing and what you hope to achieve. In work, this could mean your peers or line manager can offer support and advice. Or it could be your close friends and family.

Perhaps you need to ringfence some time to achieve your goal. If the people around you understand what you are trying to achieve and understand you need this time to practise or study, they are more likely to leave you to it!

10. Set a timescale

When you set about learning a new skill, think about how long (reasonably) it should take. Now, if you are enrolling on a course at work, this might be obvious as you’ll have a set number of weeks. If the skill is more open-ended, it’s a little more difficult. BUT, always have a timescale in mind.

Doing so will help keep you on track and stop you putting off something because it is difficult or something ‘more important’ has come up.

Be reasonable with your planning – with the best will in the world, you won’t become fluent in French in 3 weeks – but do have an end point and a date. Regular progress reviews will keep you on track – and are a great way of seeing just how far you have come.


The world of work is changing so quickly, almost everyone will need to upskill in some way, shape or form. Hopefully these tips will help you get started on that journey, whatever it may be!

Looking for a more flexible way to work?

Nine to five doesn't exist in our world. Join redwigwam and find work that fits in around your lifestyle.