For hundreds of years, education looked a lot like going to Hogwarts minus all the interesting magic. We’d have to travel to some far off location, sit in a classroom for hours on end and hope that you had a great teacher. Now, thanks to online learning even us muggles live in a magical age of learning. We have amazing technology but we shouldn’t let that distract us from what we really need to do to achieve successful development.

When I work with people on development (Whether these are individuals, managers or Human Resource staff), I see the same thing happen over and over again. As an aspiration, the benefits of development are fantastic. And who doesn’t have goals and good intentions? But the reality of doing the work gets in the way of the magical results. In this article I want to share with you what Hogwarts can teach us about effective learning. Relax because these techniques work for muggles like you and I.

PS: This article includes Self Development Tips and Tricks from the Course “How to Develop Yourself”. If you want to progress your work or personal life, then find out how to set yourself up for success here.

Different people want different things from their development, for example:

  • Some people want to get better at their jobs to get better results. (Like improving your technique to make more sales or giving better performance communication)

  • Some people want to learn how to do their job faster so they can manage their workload better or have a life outside of the office. (For example, Excel Shortcuts, Time Management Skills, or How to Delegate)

  • Some people want to learn the skills they need that will progress their careers or let them change into their dream job. (For example learning Essential Management Skills), Or

  • Some people love learning for personal growth and the sake of learning. (For example Better Communication Skills)

What is it that you want from your development? You see whatever it is that you want from your (work) life, personal development is going to help you to get there. But the trick is finding the time to invest in your future.

Finding the Time to do Development:

The hardest thing about development is finding the time to do development. What magic does Hogwarts use to make time for learning? It’s simple they don’t use any magic at all - instead they have classes, just like regular learning. Because it’s simple and it works.

Now when you’re doing online learning, there aren’t any class times and “anytime” becomes “no time”. So how do you copy this? It’s simple, take the development off your to do list and stick it into your diary. Book an appointment with yourself because you’re simply not going to get the benefits of development unless you set some time aside for it.

Better still, make it a recurring appointment because no school, not even Hogwarts, tries to finish the syllabus in one single lesson. Regular, consistent lessons are the path to success.

Tip: Is your diary too full? Again no magic needed: Just go a few weeks out and book the time before someone else does.

Tip: Here's a guide on making time for self development

The Magic Sorting Hat Because People are Different

So people are different but our education system has a habit of treating everyone the same. Successful people have great self awareness, they know what their strengths are and they know how to compensate for their weaknesses. At Hogwarts they have a magic sorting hat to put you into the right house.

The closest thing to a Magic Sorting Hat is finding out your Learning Power in the Learning Skills Assessment. If you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole, this assessment will help you understand what makes you different to other people. And will show you how to make the best of your natural skills and tendencies when it comes to development.

Tip: Are you responsible for employees and wish that they would improve their skills and capabilities? Help them to find their own Learning Power by sharing this assessment with them.

Banishing Development Distractions

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You know the drill, as soon as you sit down to do some quality time on developing your skills, your phone rings or there’s someone to see you. Now in Harry Potter world, you’d have a wand that you could use to banish distractions. But zapping someone with a spell seems like a pretty extreme way to avoid distractions. Once again Hogwarts uses a less extreme, totally conventional, yet effective method to avoid distractions. And that’s that they have dedicated learning spaces. Called classrooms and libraries. Just like we have in muggle world. Is your desk is a hive of distractions from telephone calls, to social media, post-it reminders, demanding customers, colleagues and let’s not forget the about the boss? Then the trick is to hide away from it all. Shut your door, put your phone on silent, turn off desktop notifications, leave instructions not to be disturbed.

Or if all else fails book a meeting room. It’s tough to focus on learning at the best of times. So if you find yourself being knocked off course because of distractions, either take the distractions away or take yourself away from the distractions.

TIP: If your boss is the biggest distraction preventing you from doing your training then establish an “upfront contract” with your boss. As a start, ask your boss what skills they want you to develop in your one on one meetings with your boss. For more details on how to do this see “How to Develop Yourself”

What do Wizards do When They Fail?

The thing with development projects is that they are speculative. Not every project is going to work. Now the cause of failure could be external, for example: from a bad course or a weak teacher. Or the cause of failure could be internal, for example: by you failing to finish the course or you making a bad implementation. The nature of learning is failing a lot until you start to fail less.

So what do wizards do when they fail? Again no magic spells, they try again. If a student at Hogwarts doesn’t pass, there’s no magic potion or spell - they just repeat the subject or pick a better suited speciality. Boringly conventional and boringly effective because it’s perseverance that determines how successful people are.

The way to stay persistent with your personal development is to accept that you’re going to get knocked off course a few times. But as long as you book an hour a week with yourself to monitor your progress and keep moving forward, then you’ll get there in the end.

Forget Spells, The Solution to Your Problems is in Your Hands

If someone from 100 years ago looked at online learning today they would think that it’s magical. Got a problem? You can pull a magic device out of your pocket and get a wizard to teach you a magic spell (ahem get expert advice, for example see this dialogue on how to encourage your employees to solve their own problems it works so well it’s almost like using a magic spell).

To solve your problems, advance your career or just learn a cool new skill, you don’t have to go looking for Platform 9 and ¾. All you need to do is know “How to Develop Yourself” because this is the one skill to rule all others. (Oops I may be straying into Lord of the Rings Territory here :-) ) Don’t wait for magic to solve your problems, start investing in yourself by setting some dedicated time aside every week.

PS Let’s Not Forget About Dumbledore

Dumbledore is the Headmaster at Hogwarts - he’s an experienced and highly knowledgeable wizard who helps to guide the school pupils through difficulties. Many people struggle with online learning because of a lack of personal interaction, a lack of guidance and a lack of accountability. That’s why we all need a Dumbledore in our life. Now you may not get this from an online learning course, but you can combine your own personal development with working with a mentor. Helpful resource: Guide on working with a mentor


Do you have any comments, questions or tips about online learning? Please share in the comments below.