In every stage of life, we face new challenges and need to change, learn, and grow to overcome those challenges and become a more successful, well rounded, and productive person. That applies in the college classroom, in your post-graduation job search efforts, and in the new career you embark upon. In fact, being a lifelong learner is key in your personal and social life as well. There really is no area of life where productive learning habits and strategies won’t greatly benefit you.

Here are 7 key habits, practices, and attitudes that will help you be an effective lifelong learner:

1. Always Focus on a Goal

Not just as a student striving to get an A or an employee hoping to earn a promotion, but always have a “big goal” set before you that you can organize your energies around and direct your efforts toward.

Between graduation and your first job, job-searching is your job, so treat it that way. So, for example, if you’re looking for family medicine physician jobs, focus on finding the best search engines. Learn to use them efficiently and to write a better resume. In other words, see every situation as a learning opportunity and put in the effort to make the most of it.

2. Learn Steadily, Never “Cram”

Studies show that “cramming” for an exam is a poor way to learn. At most, you get through the test but quickly forget everything you “learned.”

“Distributed practice,” meaning learning bit by bit consistently over a longer period of time, is a much better method. It yields far higher retention and gives you time to mull over the information in your mind, to “take it all in” and reflect on its significance.

3. Conduct Practice Tests

Self-tests are one of the most effective ways to learn. Get in the habit of asking yourself key questions at the end of a chapter or book you just read. Often they are provided for you in the text.

Or, another way of practice testing is to make flashcards on the most important facts you need to remember and drill yourself till you master them. Gradually drop out the cards you keep getting right and focus on the ones you keep missing. Shuffle the cards so know you can answer the questions in any order.

4. Get Feedback & Learn From Others

A good lifelong learner realizes he/she can’t do it all alone. Especially as an employee, you want to make a point of observing more experienced co-workers and asking them for help. Even beyond official orientation and training, always be looking for ways to learn from those who know more than you do.

Also, get feedback from the people you are serving in your job position, whether they be patients, students, or customers. Ask how you’re doing or if there’s any way you could improve. Don’t automatically react negatively to criticisms.

5. Be Positive, Learn From Mistakes

Keep track of both failures and successes in a small notebook. If possible, always carry it with you. Don’t gloat over past successes and don’t dwell on past mistakes. Instead, when you list a success, add a way to improve even further. And when you list a failure, write down why it happened and how you can avoid it next time.

6. Seek Out Opposing Opinions

Here’s another habit that will help you delve more deeply into issues and problems you face and learn to overcome them. Get multiple and diverse opinions on a matter. To find the truth, it often helps to compare different views, find their strengths/weaknesses, and learn to understand “where others are coming from.”

7. Learn to Use Time Wisely

Have a well-organized schedule (and life), carry flashcards, a book, or some other learning materials to use during spare minutes. Overall, these 7  habits will help you be a lifelong learner far more than you probably realize.

Our thanks for this post go to our friend, Jason Nielson, a full-time freelance writer for over 4 years. He has successfully submitted over 4,500 online articles on a wide variety of topics.