6 easy ways to become smarter when you are strapped for time & cash

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

You have been out of school for a long while, your everyday work schedule is not as exciting as it used to be. You keep on pushing aside those books that you have been meaning to read forever. That short course that you wanted to your employer to fund has been declined.

Yet you keep reiterating to your friends and family, “If only I had more…time/money… I would learn …”

It’s time to take charge! 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.

Websites like Degreed will allow you to keep will allow you to keep track of all the material that you enroll in.

Alternatively, if you are an Excel-junkie, a simple Google spreadsheet could do the thing. If you are the pen and paper kind of girl, the bullet journal system could be your magic bullet.

So, what kind of materials can you include in a personal syllabus?


1. Books

Media strategist Ryan Holiday, dropped out of college to pursue his career while continuing to educate himself by reading primarily classics.

Today, by the age of 29, he has authored 3 books, worked with Robert Greene of the 48 Laws of Power fame. Ryan has appeared in major publications such as Fast Company, New York Times and Forbes. Not to forget to mention, he is a former Director of Marketing at American Apparel.

You may argue that reading is an expensive hobby because the average cost of a new book KES 1,000-2,500 (approx. £7-18). It’s more expensive if Amazon does not ship to your country.

But have you tried borrowing from your good friends or the nearest library? Alternatively, you can find books on the second-hand booksellers on streets of Nairobi (a.k.a Inama Bookshop) from as low as KES 50 (£0.37).

2. Podcasts and audio books

Though, the jury is still out on the paper versus e-reader debate, the third option of audio reading through podcasts and audiobooks is gaining popularity.

This is a great way of reinforcing learning, especially when learning a foreign language. If you have a pretty long commute (yes, I am thinking about you, Nairobi traffic jam), comedy audiobooks or current affairs podcasts can be perfect way to begin your day.

Podcasts and audiobooks are a great way of reinforcing learning Click To Tweet

Book bloggers and Booktubers are also making the case for audiobooks and some like Ashley of Climb the Stacks  saying that you can test the waters with short memoirs by using apps such as Audible.

3. Webinars and e-courses

If you have always wanted to take an art appreciation class so that your trips to the museums more memorable or learn how to code in the latest programming language but you are not sure where to start, then you are in luck.

The beauty of living in 2016 is that you have access to screens 24/7 so you can take advantage of your fringe hours to take up new hobbies and hone your skills.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have gained popularity over the last couple of years and are seen to be the future of learning. They provide classes offered at international Ivy League schools at a fraction of the cost and within a few clicks.

The beauty of living in 2016 is that you can take advantage of fringe hours to hone your skills Click To Tweet

A great place to start is Class Central that aggregates MOOCs for other course providers such edx, Coursera and Udemy. Skillcrush has also gained popularity by providing tech skills which have enabled their alumni to make career shifts.

Special mention goes to Skillshare for having everyday ‘practical’ classes like Knife Skills 101.

In addition, you can take advantage of bloggers and Youtubers who offer free and paid online courses that are range from blogging, scrapbooking, navigating your career to playing music by ear.

In short, you have no room for excuses.


4. Start an Articles Club!

Back in 2011,the ingenious Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo was on a mission to fight winter blues. 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 cannot commit to finishing the latest Man Booker Prize winner in time for the next meet-up.

Here is a glimpse into how Joanna organised her own Articles Club.

5. Volunteer

After completing  my postgraduate degree, I decided to volunteer at one of the local charity shops near my university and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Working with people from diverse backgrounds not only made me more culturally sensitive, but also built on my interpersonal 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 new (and free) knowledge and skills like baking, cooking, changing a tyre, floral arrangement…

6. Visit local places of interest

Hands up, if you have lived in Nairobi (or insert your city here) for over 5 years and you have never set foot near the local museum?

You would not imagine the number of born and bred Nairobians I’ve met who have never visited the Kenya National Archives. The archives are smack in the middle of the CBD.

Local places of interest could also serve as sources of inspiration Click To Tweet

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.

Well ladies, the opportunities for learning are endless and can only be limited by your time, passions and interests.

Please let us know how you continue learning and what book/podcast/online course has had the most profound impact in your life or career.