Too busy to learn? We are calling your bluff!

July 11, 2019

How to release time from your schedule and adopt a lifelong learning mindset

Warning: An ongoing obstacle has been hindering you from lifelong learning

Target spotted: The excuse of “I am busy.”

Have you ever been in a situation when your colleagues start talking about current news, or even pre-existing subjects like trans-humanism and humanistic theory of learning, and you are like, “Wait, what’s that?”

The next moment you feel embarrassed for not being well-versed. This makes you want to read more, but soon after, you realize that your motivation dies down. If anyone asks why you stopped, you reply with a classic “I am too busy.”

Too busy with being busy

Accept it or not, there is no such thing as “I am busy”, there is only “Hey, this is not my priority,”.

We need to stop using this as a convenient excuse to not do or learn things that truly matter. Perhaps we should reevaluate on whether we are busy, or are we simply just being too busy with being busy?

Live in contentment, but do not settle for less knowledge.

Humans are curious and driven creatures. Like Maslow mentioned, we seek activities that feed our needs and help attain self-actualization. We just need to find the motivation and reason to spur us on. However, if we continue to use the excuse of “I am busy” to dodge away from the opportunities that lifelong learning can entail, are we meeting our basic human needs? Definitely not!

Who’s got the time?

Maybe some of you still think that “I am busy” is a valid reason to not engage in lifelong learning. Fair enough, let’s break down our day together.

On average, a human being aged 18 years and above sleeps an average of 7 to 9 hours a day. In a day of 24 hours, that leaves us with 15 to 17 hours of waking time. Can we not spare 1 in 17 hours for learning? Yes, we can!

Taking away the time spent at work or school –perhaps 9 hours– we are still left with 6 to 8 hours of free time. During this period, we may be commuting, having meals, hanging out with friends, etc. In fact, remember those times when you just zoned out and didn’t do anything, or spent time beating the high score on a phone game?

Think about all that time wasted, and how it could have been better used on increasing your knowledge and awareness of the world around you! Research indicates that in Singapore, we spend 12 hours 42 minutes on an average every day on digital devices. But, is even one of those hours spent to aid our learning?

Unsplash on Veri IvanovaPhoto by

Exploration is the Essence of the Human Spirit

So, how can we maximize our waking time to indulge in lifelong learning? Here’s how!

The 5-hour rule

A simple rule that many successful people have used: allocate one hour on each weekday for learning and practice. Make the effort to block these undisturbed five hours in your weekly calendar. Think it is not possible? Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and many business leaders have proved otherwise.


Learning and practice do not mean learning by rote or reading endlessly. Learn better and be more engaged through experiential learning. This could be in any form of your choice — hands-on workshops, visual stories such as TED talks, YouTube videos, podcasts and more. As learning largely stems from self-motivation, it is important to know what are the best ways to arouse your curiosity and keep you motivated to learn.

Fun fact: Many of us subconsciously use a great way of learning — through human communications. This could simply be discussing an unfamiliar topic with your colleagues. Yes, we may feel embarrassed at times when we do not know certain things (we call it “suaku” in Singapore). However, that’s how we learn new concepts from those who are better equipped with knowledge and skills. Further discussions and even debates on certain issues, allow you to gain new insights and perspectives on the same topic.

Being a traveller, I love learning about a new place from the locals. From their perspectives on life and creative resourceful innovations to how they use different skills to create social impacts, there is so much you could learn from a conversation. Learning from people of diverse backgrounds never fails to amaze me!

1 in 17 hours

Make good use of at least 1 in the 17 hours of being awake to learn something new. This can be during commuting or instead of checking your Instagram soon as you wake up! There sure are better ways to spend your time than finding what the people on your social feed are up to.

All-round skills

We need to know that acquiring new skills in this lifelong learning journey is not just about hard skills like biotech or computer programming, it is also about constantly improving our soft skills such as empathy, interpersonal relationships, creativity and leadership management. These soft skills can barely be replaced by automation and make us future-proof our careers. Ultimately, to truly grow as a reflective skilled individual, we will need a healthy balance of both.

When we asked a co-learner what topics would he like to see in upcoming NewCampus classes, he replied, “I am not looking for any specific topics in particular, because ultimately I am here to learn new things that I have never known before.”

Learning starts from areas of interest, but eventually, we have to get out of that comfort zone to explore areas that we have never come across before. Who knows, we may just love the unfamiliar! Even if we do not, we now have something to share with others. And curiosity is infectious.

Time is never the factor that is hindering you from progressing in the lifelong learning journey. You have to find the true underlying factor. Are you going to just give up the chance to be a better version of yourself? Or are you going to adopt a lifelong learning mindset?

And now that we know we can learn anywhere, are you still too busy to learn? :)