Throughout the lockdowns, the internet saw a surge in search volume on self-development and distance learning. The term “practical skills” was thrown around haphazardly, which kind of made me look further than the google search could provide.
It’s December 2020. We all have been through a tough year. In recognition of the sacrifices made in these difficult times, I only want to say, “well done!”.
Moving on from that point, 2021 is right on our doorstep. A NEW YEAR means new challenges and new opportunities to overcome them. I don’t believe there is a better way to prepare for this than to consciously develop a unique skill that adds value to you as an individual. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at what practical skills are and which ones you can benefit the most from.
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Practical Skills 101
To write this blog, I sat down and mapped out how I use the practical skills that I have so that I could figure out which branch of my skill tree to develop next. Now, it’s easy to lose track of the ultimate goal in this process.
So I went back to the drawing board. It seemed like a good idea to read up on what others had to say about practical skills. That’s when I realised “practical skills” has become too vague to mean any particular type of skills.
Some blogs have tons of knowledge on digital skills, while others focus on survivability and handicrafts. I even found one that considered managing laundry as a practical skill, and honestly, I don’t think I have the grounds to dispute it.
After reading enough, I’m under the notion that the practical skill you should develop for the most part depends on where you are in your life and where you want to get to.
Considering the type of personality
Your personality type in the most basic sense is whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Either one makes certain skills easy to master and others a fumbling necessity. I hope you can see what this means in terms of selecting a practical skill to develop.
To make it simple, I’ll draw a line; if you are an outgoing person who likes to interact with people and actively use his/her body, you’re a physical extrovert. There are tons of skills that I prefer to call physical or raw skills, which are perfect for this personality type.
On the flip side, if you’re someone who enjoys the indoors and seclusion with your thoughts, you are an introvert. If that is the case, knowing soft or digital skills and skills that develop character and nuance seem more appropriate. There are a ton of those as well.
However, to conclude this section, I think I should add that these generalisations are far from what real people are. Extroverts can benefit from soft skills in certain circumstances, while introverts might find themselves needing some physical exertion to keep everything moving. The possibilities are endless, and so are the skills that can be of practical value to you.
Typing out practical skills by discipline
I’ve also found another way to evaluate the practical skills that best suit you. I think you need a combination of soft and raw skills to lead a fruitful and satisfying life, but that’s just me. One thing you can do though is comparing your work life to the time you spend outside of work.
The goal here is to figure out a target skill type based on whether you want it to be work-related or something extracurricular. Thinking in an organised manner is going to make all the difference when it comes to self-development in a demanding world.
22 practical skills to have in 2021
Considering the previous discussion, I think it’s better to give you the list of promising practical skills in a couple of neat categories. It’ll make picking the right one easier, I hope.
The categories I consider here are:
Hard and Soft Skills
Soft skills involve civil society awareness and digital presence in workplaces. And, hard skill covers technical skills for a particular job. If you think you’re better off in the office space than in the outdoors, soft skills can up your playing field significantly. I decided to include some general office work that seems to be overlooked in most discussions.
10 hard and soft skills for professional growth and awareness:
1. Speed reading
First off, I think you should know the different types of reading. Mainly three types called, Subvocalization, Auditory reading and Visual reading. You can pretty much guess what the latter two mean. I’ll elaborate on Subvocalization. According to Wikipedia, Subvocalization is a form of silent speech. We typically use it when reading; it provides the sound of the word as it is read.
Now whichever type you are you can always benefit from faster reading time and easier comprehension. This is where Speed reading comes to play. It means quite literally what it says. Increasing the speed at which you read.
One of prominent methods is Meta guiding which typically means pointing at the read text with fingers, pens or other indicating objects. The other method is Skimming and Scanning. In it you simply avoid reading a document from top to bottom and instead, scan through for clues of the main idea and only reading a paragraph if the information is relevant to your purpose.
2. Computer literacy
In my experience, this has become more than just a practical skill. You need computer literacy to function smoothly in this digital world. Using the ATM, being familiar with touchpads, connecting and setting up Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and printer devices are some very obvious examples.
To list a few more I’d say, opening and sending emails, reading PDFs and other digital formats. It’s a good idea to be able to prepare slides on PowerPoint and use Google applications such as Docs, Drive and Maps. To be fair this can turn into a huge list, which is why I suggest you make some categories on your own.
3. Official documents
Reading official documents can come in handy in a number of real life situations. The point here isn’t to understand every little loophole like a legal expert. However you should have some aptitude in reading and understanding official documents.
In my experience, every official document follows a set of conventions that are universal. The smart thing to do here is become familiar with these conventions so you can easily navigate the document and draw out sound conclusions from it.
4. Social Media and Digital Marketing
While you only come across official documents sparsely, it’s absolutely the opposite with Social Media. It’s everywhere around us and all our lives are on it, for the most part. Being able to use and navigate social media efficiently is a skill in and of itself. So even if you don’t really associate with the digital presence idea, it’s still a benefit to be able to navigate these sites. The most popular ones are, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Google and Facebook. Pick any one because honestly, you can’t go wrong with this.
Conversely, if you are active on social media already I’d suggest you explore the world of digital marketing. While it provides a secure and progressive career prospect, the benefits reach farther than that. We are constantly bombarded with digital marketing techniques we are simply not aware of. If you have an understanding of how digital marketing works, it’ll become easier for you to find the most relevant and genuine content in a short amount of time.
Since we just wrapped social media, it’s appropriate to address the social media topic that sparks unanimous outrage. Yes, it’s taxes. While the whole internet is rather upset with the fact that doing taxes isn’t included as compulsory studies. You shouldn’t have to rely on that anyway.
If you are a functional adult it’s obvious you earn and that means filing taxes. So you should put in the time to actually learn tax and claims filing. It’ll save you a lot of money and mental stress over the years.
There’s a ton of reasons to learn to program. Having computer literacy is just the tip of the iceberg. Learning a programming language is similar to learning a new spoken language i.e. French or German. However, programming skill gives you unprecedented control over your devices. This gives you a way to maximize the computing output from your computer. Programming also helps you think in more sophisticated ways. More on that up next.
7. Problem-solving skill
Problem solving is a giant part of programming. However problems-solving isn’t bound by the programming world. It’s more of a psychological state where you take on problems and devise efficient strategies to solve them. It should be obvious by now that you can apply this to any situation to shave off the solving time for mundane problems.
Problem-solving is a practical skill to have when you work in demanding settings where instant solutions can mean gains and losses.
8. Excel skill
If you work with data and don’t know programming, Excel is your only friend I’m afraid. Luckily Excel is not that hard to use. If you have loads of data or information to sort and manage Excel will save most of your time by doing the organising itself. All you have to do is learn how to efficiently use Excel.
It’s one of the fundamental applications available on a normal desktop. Tutorials for Excel are spread far and wide throughout the internet, so no problem in getting your hands on material. Excel saves ridiculous amounts of time with a very short learning curve in my opinion. I wouldn’t recommend anything over Excel as a practical skill in the office space.
Since we are talking about it, you could check out our Blog on Excel vs. Sheets for more information
9. Home repairs
Being able to make small repairs in the house is something that I personally enjoy. I have two distinct reasons for it, which is not the point of this blog. Instead I’d like to state that, doing small repairs by yourself has both physical and mental benefits.
Repair work usually requires focus and a minimal level of dexterity. Psychologically it makes you feel more invested and attached to your home. Which can be a great way to overcome homesickness. After all, nothing makes a place your own than being aware of the minute details that make a house into a home.
Videography is a practical skill primarily because it has tremendous value in businesses. The marketing and entertainment business rely heavily on these skills. If you have the complete videography experience not much can come in the way of your progress.
You can use it both as an art form and a career prospect. Whichever the case it will give you a creative edge for sure.
This section is the apparent scenario for extroverts you can imagine. Practical skills that use your body and sensory abilities to get reproducible results. In a rightful sense, you can think of anything being a physical skill. Here I’ve lined up 5 obviously valuable ones.
1. Driving and Reading maps
Driving skill is as important as breathing in the first world. Not knowing how to drive is going to be a setback throughout your life. It’s one of those skills that you should gain early in life. The best part is you won’t forget it no matter what. That makes it a really good skill to invest in.
Reading a map is a literal lifesaver if you’re a lover of the outdoors. It’s a legitimate practical skill that will not go out of use. Being able to navigate any terrain is an awesome skill if you ask me.
2. Gardening and Basic Botany
Basic botany is a survival skill for most people. Being able to grow food from the ground is one of the most useful things you could learn.
Gardening is a light hobby that involves some essential knowledge. You need to know exactly what plants work together, how much light or fertilizer each needs, etc. Gardening is a engaging physical activity that requires patience and compassion. I reckon them to be one of the core factors in being human.
Any sort of outdoor sport is good for you. It helps with fitness and motor coordination. Team sports help develop communication and teamwork. Although I think the most important point to playing sports is forming a sense of community. Not to mention the exhilaration of scoring a point or run.
I’m not even going to explain this one. Every adult should know how to cook. You never know where you might end up. Being able to cook for yourself not only makes you more self reliant, but rather helps develop more familiarity with yourself through your taste buds. I find that to be a very good deal. I started cooking 5 years ago and haven’t gone back ever since.
5. Knots and Sewing
Knots and sewing although may seem very different skills to have, I assure you they are not. Sewing is fundamentally tying knots with smaller ropes (thread). Both help develop eye hand coordination and finger dexterity. Great skill to have when heading out to remote locations where replacing clothes and other articles isn’t as easy.
1. Communication skill
If you are like me your idea of good time probably involves being tucked under a blanket, engrossed in a book. As appealing as that may seem, you can’t get by a single day without communicating with fellow beings.
There are certain milestones in life that lie on the other side of being able to properly communicate your thoughts. How your friends perceive you if your boss is going to consider you for the next project, whether you have a good rapport with your neighbours depends largely on your communication skills. It’s more than articulation, really. A lot of it involves understanding the other party.
2. Language skill
Admit it or not, multilinguals do have more fun. It’s an essential skill when you’re touring or working abroad. Now sure, most of us have spent the entire 2020 cooped up. But those of us who know French, German, and a bit of Spanish, had a wider range of movies to watch during this period!
Our world is expanding, and at the same time getting smaller. Being a global citizen in this era entails being fluent in at least a couple languages. And if the learning process seems too daunting to you, don’t worry, we all feel that way initially. However, it is in fact this same practice that will train your brain, making it healthier. The fruit of which you’ll be able to enjoy till old age.
3. Public speaking
It’s okay to get nervous about giving a best-man speech, or an office presentation; what is not okay is not going prepared. There are those few who savor their time under limelight and dominate the stage. But the rest of us will also have to stand up in front of people and address them, at least at some points of our lives.
So even if it gives you sweaty palms (in fact specially because of that), you’ll benefit a great deal from learning the ways you can hack every time you have to give a speech in public.
4. Body language
We are such expressive beings, we often give away a lot without saying a word. Which is why it is essential in our culture to be able to pick the cues, interpret what the person in front of you is hinting at. Whether you want to be better at getting a date, or nab the other party while running a negotiation, learning what their body language is saying about the people is going to make you a master of reading others, while masking your own vulnerabilities. Here you’ll find 12 Simple Body Language Tips for Your Next Interview if you are curious enough.
1. Instruments and Music
Learning an instrument may not seem all that practical at first. That notion is clearly out of trend. It’s a scientific truth now that musical knowledge helps to develop cognition. In which case learning an instrument is an interesting and easy way to learn and appreciate the nuances of the art form. It can stimulate unconventional regions of the brain related to mathematical and logical reasoning.
The instrument you choose doesn’t matter all that much. Although some of it depends on the type of sounds you like. I personally love the guitar as an instrument. Learning to play the keyboard can be easier than the violin. Learning to play drums will give you a very different perspective from playing the bagpipe. Whichever you choose will act as your gateway to exploring the musical world.
2. Painting and Arts
Being involved in Painting or other visual artforms has similar benefits to learning an instrument. Painting places a lot of emphasis on how you perceive and coordinate your hands to produce an accurate impression. Painting has been found to help manage certain types of personality disorders and other mental complications.
Writing is by far the most basic form of self expression. Even this blog that I’m writing is a way for me to express myself. Writing is incredible because it entails reading by a rule of thumb. The more you read, the more you get better at writing. But that will only work if you write a decent amount too.
Writing gives you the opportunity to put your ideas and thoughts on display. Which means you’ll be more keen on forming concise and factually accurate arguments. Please don’t assume writing only means novels and biographies. You can choose to write anything, from reports to blog and even quotes. Feel free to try each one out.
Wow! Quite a read, eh? I’ve tried to make a list as comprehensive as possible. You’re free to pick and choose and even add more skills that I missed. Once you have made your choice, it’s time to find relevant material to study. There are tons of online courses (free or paid whatever, as long as you get accurate content.) you can try out on almost anything. If you get a certificate, that’s great. If not, don’t sweat it. As long as you learn properly, your skills will do the talking for you.
The most common phenomenon I have seen is that people who specialise in a specific trade suffer from a narrow field of expertise. Now I’m not one to claim specialisation is bad in general. However, it’s a better decision to have ideas on versatile topics and tasks.
It helps you make informed decisions and assess situations based on proper consideration. For me, the best way is to gain practical skills that complement your day to day life and make you a versatile person. Until next time, happy learning.
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