Awhile back I attended a presentation on goal setting or something like that. I hate writing formulaic objectives and plans, but on the other hand, I’m always making notes on what I plan to do and achieve.
Anyhow, the speaker gave an assignment and we sat working individually. At the end he made an interesting observation that has stuck with me much more than the lesson on planning.
As he started to provide feedback on the exercise, he asked if anyone had trouble completing it because they would normally walk around while thinking about this. A sizable percentage of the room raised their hands, including me.
“That’s because you have a kinesthetic learning style,” he said.
An important revelation for me, though I still don’t remember anything he said about the intended point of the exercise.
Anyhoo, his remark was the door to research I’ve since conducted on the VAK (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) preferred learning styles.
To summarize, visual learners have two subchannels. Visual-linguistics prefer learning through written language (this is my second preferred style), and visual-spatials prefer charts and other visual aids. Auditory learners prefer audio learning (obviously), and kinesthetic learners favor learning that involves touching and moving.
I love to pace and walk as I think and prepare to write, plus there are three other important clues to my kinesthetic orientation: First, I am not good at reading or listening to directions; I prefer to dig into the task at hand and refer back to the directions as needed. Second, I take notes and doodle but rarely go back to review the notes. Third, I’m crazy about colored pens, pencils and markers and love desk supplies like other women love shoes.
On the other hand, auditory learning is the worst of the three styles for me. I hated learning French in elementary school because it was all auditory, but I did much better in high school when I saw the words printed and could make more sense out of the mush I had been hearing.
If you’d like to determine your own preferred learning style, here is an excellent free survey you can try.
Now, what does this mean for the solopro (freelancer or consultant)?
It means we can create a work environment and style that plays to our strengths in the privacy of our own office.
For me, this means:
I can pace and walk and write in purple.
I can sharpen pencils incessantly and go to the kitchen frequently to pour two ounces of coffee at a time just for the pleasure of movement.
I can take notes on speeches without being called upon after the fact to prepare minutes from notes that were intended to keep me awake, not to create accurate proceedings for official distribution.
I can formulate copy in my head while I do other stuff and then quickly spill it out onto paper and edit it by deadline.
In other words, I don’t have to justify to others how I can get great work done by deadline even though I don’t stay seated at my desk, fingers on keyboard, so others see me “working.”
I can start projects before reading all the background explanation and instructions without feeling like I am lazy and cheating.
I can go outside when I want.
Understanding how you learn and perform most effectively clearly benefits your work. This is especially true for solopros because you have the freedom to structure your work schedule and processes optimally for your style.
What is your preferred learning style? How do you apply this to your work? I invite your comments!