6 easy steps to stay relevant even if you work full-time

June 2, 2022

In this ultra-competitive, changing world, staying relevant and continuously learning is vital. However, it’s challenging to stay ahead of the latest trends and technologies when working 8 hours a day.

The first time that I faced this problem was when I was only 20 years old. I was a software engineering student who focused only on studying. But, different circumstances forced me to work 8+ hours a day as a programmer.

Ten years have passed since that moment. These days, I’m a Technical Director leading a group of 100+ employees. Also, during that period, I got my degree and two other certifications.

This article will discuss 6 different tips to stay relevant while keeping a healthy social life. Trust me, it’s entirely workable and anyone can do it!

“We are living through countless transformations and the only way for no one to be left behind is to be one step ahead: to prepare young people to reinvent their careers with global projection and to foster an attitude of constant learning.”

Martin Migoya (Globant’s CEO)

6 steps to stay relevant

Staying relevant does not imply getting a Ph.D., hosting a YouTube channel, or being a speaker on a TED Talk. Staying relevant means being aware of the latest trends in the area where you are passionate . When you understand the present and can imagine a realistic future, it means that you are staying relevant. 

Every time I succeed in an endeavor that allows me to stay relevant, I’ve always taken the same 6 steps. The order is crucial, and each step contributes to making me feel aligned with my goal, gain momentum, or recharge my energies.

Let me introduce them to you.

1. Goal definition.

Staying relevant feels like a never-ending process. However, we can hack our perception by setting short-term goals. It’s easier when you have a purpose, a SMART goal, and you put a finish date in your calendar. Those factors will make you tune your pace so that you can reach the end line. 

In my experience, someone who works full-time should set goals than can be accomplished within one to two quarters. That reduces the chances of abandonment due to a new task in the job or personal matters.

That’s the reason I like certifications. Certification typically takes 3 to 6 months to accomplish, has a clearly defined set of topics to cover, and rewards you at the end. 

Let me give you a personal example. When I was working on the AWS certification, I took one month to define a plan, and then I signed up for the exam. After I had a plan and money invested, I felt energized and eager to start! That’s the energy that you need at the beginning of your endeavor. I wrote a Medium post about it; maybe, it will be interesting for you to read it: 

The 5-STEP program to get the AWS Data Analytics Certification in three months

2. Create a habit

You need to set aside some time each week for your endeavor. Imagine that you need at least 5 hours a week. It seems like a lot but, think about it this way; you can take 3 hours during weekdays and 2 hours during the weekend. It doesn’t sound so bad.

I believe that the best time for studying is in the morning. Generally, there is less activity at work in the early morning, it’s easier to concentrate, and your body is full of energy. I’m not suggesting joining the 5 AM club. I recommend taking from 8-9 am to read or study something related to your plan.

An excellent alternative to start would be to choose the days you are working from home and use the commute time to stay relevant. 

3. Create a mood to foster momentum

To learn, you need to focus.  But, how do you focus during working hours in this modern world where there are distractions everywhere? Many books, videos on YouTube, and articles in papers have been written about it. After reading and investigating, I could get what helps me stay focused. Let me give you a list of the 4 tips that I use:

  1. Place a slot in my work calendar (even during non-working hours). I need to give the same value to my challenge as my work.
  2. Put my mobile phone in “Do not disturb” mode and remove it from my working area.
  3. Put some lo-fi music to set the study mood (that’s really personal, I have friends who listen to Trance Music and others who choose Heavy Metal).
  4. Use a timer. The Pomodoro technique is great. It’s motivating to say, “I have 40 minutes to read this and ,after that, I will take a break .”

4. Try to find allies

The context affects each one of us. If we have a group of people around us that foster procrastination every day, it will be hard to focus. Tell people about your plans and new goals. Involve friends in your endeavors so that they push you in the correct direction.

In my case, it’s really powerful when someone asks me, “Hey, how are things going with the fresh course you are doing?” Most times, I start the next day with more energy.

Why don’t you tell your boss about it? Don’t you think that they would appreciate your desire to progress? Good leaders value employees who strive for progress and stay relevant. It could even help you get a higher score in your evaluation!  

5. Have a notebook (digital or paper) always close to you.

Imagine that you are at work and you finish early. Why don’t you use that time for your endeavor? 

If you have your notes ready, you always have the chance to read and stay relevant. I used to have a professor at university that stated, “If you are on the bus, you can use the commute time to read and keep new information!” I was lucky enough to meet that professor when I started at the university. That suggestion allowed me to progress a lot in my free time. During long commutes from work to university, I remember that I was always reviewing and changing my notes.

However, there is something that I regret about my life at university. At that moment, I used paper notebooks to take notes. Now, that information is not accessible to me!

My recommendation is to use a digital notebook over a paper notebook. The concepts that you are going to use are valuable. You will need them for your life. Digital notebooks allow you to have your notes always ready wherever you are. Many digital notebooks even sync automatically with a mobile app. So, no matter where you are, you will always have access to your source of knowledge.

These days I use Notion.io. I can tell you the reasons why it is a great app, but there is a famous YouTuber that can explain it better: 

The Most Powerful Productivity App I Use – Notion

6. Reward yourself every time you finish a step

Challenges take time. If you are going to wait till you have your badge, you may get stressed (as you probably have felt at university many times, right?).

So, why don’t we try something new? Define a plan and divide it into steps. Before starting a step, think about a reward that you will give yourself after completing it. A pleasant dinner, a new t-shirt, whatever makes you feel great. Once you finish that step, give yourself that reward.

Don’t forget to congratulate and thank yourself when you get to the finish line! Many people quit after the first three weeks, but you could achieve a new goal if you stick with it. You will feel good about it! Why don’t you write about it? Post it on your social networks (your allies will be happy to see your achievements) or write a Medium post.

Closing thoughts

I want to close this article by asking for your thoughts and feedback. Have you followed some of these steps during one of your recent challenges? If not, would your results have been different if you had?

Many thanks for reading, and best wishes on your new endeavor!

Eng. Leandro Jorge Mora – Subject Matter Expert. Globant’s Data & AI Studio

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