With all the day-to-day demands of work, family and personal life, it is easy to overlook a key ingredient to a fulfilling life and career—continuing to learn and grow.

As a longtime IT consultant, wife and mother of two, I realized earlier this year that I hadn’t been finding the time for learning as an adult to keep up with my fast-paced career and my need to grow as a person. I decided to do something about it, carving out time for regular learning sessions. And I have to tell you, it feels great.

So, while it may seem obvious, I would like to offer some advice on what is needed to embrace lifelong learning as an adult. Consider this a reminder of something you probably know but haven’t been focusing on.

Raise your awareness for learning

The first thing you need to do to make learning a priority is to recognize that you need to do it and keep it top of mind. That means developing a constant awareness and asking yourself ‘what are my plans this week to learn and grow a new skill or competency?’

I am not saying it isn’t a challenge to fit this into an already busy schedule. But consider the motivation. For me, I recognize that if I’m going to continue to work in the ever-changing industry of IT, then I’ve got to be able to keep up to date with the latest trends. Maybe I realized that I’m not as up-skilled in some areas as I used to be.

Self-improvement and adaptation are essential, really, for staying ahead of the curve when it comes to IT. And learning new things is essential to being adaptable.

The next thing you need to do when planning your learning strategy is to accept that you are in it for the long haul. This isn’t something you can tackle and be done with in a couple of months. You need to develop an ongoing growth mindset. You’re embracing the idea that you should always be improving and growing.

To that end, you should view setbacks and failures as learning opportunities and realize when you are getting too comfortable in your work. When you’re having days at the office that are constantly simple and predictable, that’s when growth can start to stagnate. And maybe that’s when you should be looking for opportunities to learn something new.

Once you have decided to make learning a priority and have identified some opportunities, establish some specific learning goals for yourself and create a realistic plan to achieve them.

Your goals can be simple and the time you set aside doesn’t have to be extensive. Be realistic. It could be brushing up on your PowerPoint skills or learning how to write an effective survey. Maybe you set aside an hour once a week to read about something you want to learn or listen to a podcast.

I currently dedicate an hour a week to focus on improving skills. My latest topic is trying to read as much as I can about AI and how I can leverage it in my day to day. Other topics include data analysis techniques for business transformation, journey mapping, and brushing up on my persuasive communication skills.

Switch up formats to keep it interesting

You can take advantage of different learning formats to keep it interesting. Consider workshops, webinars, podcasts, books and drawing on knowledgeable colleagues for help. LinkedIn is a good tool because it helps you to track your learning.

From a Vizionara perspective, I use women within the team as a resource. One of my colleagues is showing me advanced Excel features that she uses frequently, and I am showing her some of mine. We exchange learning skills, and it makes it less arduous that way.

If your goals include getting an accreditation in something, for example scrum master training, you can seek out the professional body for that skill. You can also enroll in full courses if you have the time. which I try to do at least once a year.

Lifelong learning takeaways

So, what are my insights after prioritizing learning over the past six months?

While I’d like to devote more time, one hour a week does get me into a healthy habit of constantly learning and trying to stay up to date.

That said, I also find it takes longer than what I think it will to learn about something. I need to read material two or three times, and, for me, I really need to create time to apply what I learn.

Continuing to learn and grow really helps with problem-solving skills as well and staying adaptable to changes.

And finally, I find it really rewarding taking control of my own personal growth and development. I feel like I am enhancing the tools in my toolbox.

If you’ve been thinking about making time for learning new skills, I hope this will inspire you to get started. And even if you aren’t able to find the time right now, keep trying. Staying aware of the merits of learning and growing will hopefully turn into action eventually.

Gemma Falconer is a Senior Consultant at Vizionara.