So, as we move through February many ambitious people are starting to think about what they really want to achieve in 2016. And what is currently driving us forward with so much energy is the big trend for self-improvement.
And this doesn't have to mean looking good in that ideal Instagram shot (well, that too)! Instead, for many young people self-improvement actually means learning and discovering more about ourselves.
Learning really is key. And one thing that has undoubtedly changed the way people learn is the internet - and the amazing services that are available here today. Things like Edusson (an app where you can get help with your academic writing), DuoLingo (to master your language skills) or Edubirdie.com that brings professional essay writers to your fingertips.
We know that the digital age means things move more quickly, we have more "ideas" and we're surrounded by advice. But how do you know it's *good advice*?
There's a rich seam of information across the internet, across social media (particularly Twitter and Reddit - two favourite time-sinks of mine). But, what is out there to help people structure this information?
There are three movements that are changing things.
On New Ways To Focus
The first thing for 2016 is the priceless value of focus. Cal Newport's brilliant new book called Deep Work has really got people talking. In this fantastic read, the author and professor writes about the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
This difficult skill is very hard to master, but produces incredible results. According to the author, Deep Work makes people better at getting results and offers a true sense of fulfilment that comes from craftsmanship.
This must-read book argues that "Deep Work" is going to become a super-power in the 21st century digital economy. Unfortunately, many young people, have lost this ability. Instead, they spend their days in a frantic blur of Instagram, email and WhatsApp and don't realize there's a better way. Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite.
Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four "rules," for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill. For any students or people struggling with learning, or just getting work done in the digital age this book is an essential read.
Of course, it's not just traditional books - it's 2016, so there's an app for hat too! If Focus is a problem, try installing FOREST to your smartphone. This super clever App, allows users to focus on what is really important by showing a growing forest - the longer you leave the distractions of your smartphone alone. The bigger your forest grows. Love this!
Image c/o Forest app
Rethinking Academic Writing For Online Age
The second thing that students and those wanting to learn can do is to check-in with new type of experts - like Edusson app or Edubirdie.com - who offer a variety of services. These range
from essay writing, to offering research into a subject, and comparison of points of views and expert citations.
A good way to think of this service is like pay for research paper - an AirBnb for expertise. These sites are there to answer big problems in education: 1) there's too much to do (including part-time jobs to pay for education) 2) there's too much to do outside of the structured learning and 3) there's not enough tutor time. All this means the focus on studies is getting harder and harder.
There's a good variety of subjects with these services for essay writers too; including literature, philosophy, history, psychology and more.
Micro-learning Getting Bigger
Micro-learning is the other big trend that is changing the way people learn. In short, it is learning through focused bursts of information. For example, a typical micro-learning activity could be viewing a flashcard, memorizing a word, listening to a short podcast, watching a brief video or answering a series of questions in a quiz.
There's lots of digital trends contributing to this - including decreasing attention spans,
Right now the average human has an attention span of eight seconds. In a world where we consume content in status updates and 140 characters, it only makes sense that our educational content would be distributed in the same, micro-manner.
The other big macro trend contributing to this is the move to mobile. Simply put, Micro-learning is perfect for this. If you're intrigued, and want to try something different for your commute in then two worth trying are Duolingo (to master languages) and Primer (to become your own marketing guru!)