You would be astonished at how much you can learn by simply kicking back with a bowl of popcorn and watching a documentary. Are you interested in food/cooking? Check out Netflix’s original docu-series, Chef’s Table. Want to know more around Earth, the solar system, and beyond? You’ll get hooked on Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson as the host.
You can read a textbook if you want -- although that sounds pretty boring -- but you can also learn new things by just reading a great work of fiction (or nonfiction). By reading more, you’ll develop a more comprehensive vocabulary, improve your reading comprehension -- and if you're a writer yourself, you’ll learn a few things about style from the authors. Not to mention, most books have an underlying lesson that you can learn from as well.
Podcasts are great because you can listen to them anytime, anywhere. Sitting in the waiting room of your doctor’s office? Catch a quick, 15-minute episode of NPR’s "Planet Money" and learn about economics in a way that actually pertains to your life. Driving to work in the morning? Turn on "99% Invisible" to learn about architecture and design.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to see a TED Talk in person, that’s great! But even if you aren’t, you can still watch nearly all of them on Netflix and Youtube. These short presentations range from how your body language shapes who you are, to listening to a moving speech from a model about why looks aren’t everything.
Learning a new skill is never a waste of time because you always benefit, if not professionally then personally. Even if you never use that skill in the professional world, you can always use it for your own personal benefit. If your cooking skills are limited to making boxed macaroni and cheese, buy yourself a cheap set of pots and pans, look up some easy recipes on Pinterest, and start practicing. Before you know it, your food will be delicious, healthy, and much cheaper than eating out for every meal.
Do you have a great idea for a product or service, but don’t have the funding to actually get it off the ground? Launch your own Kickstarter campaign! You may not succeed in raising all the capital you need, but you’ll learn a lot about marketing and different business approaches. This experience is invaluable and will give you a better chance of success in your future business endeavors.
You can read and watch movies about other cultures all day long, but until you visit them, you really don’t have any idea what they’re like. So travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go! Get out of your comfort zone and try foods you wouldn’t normally eat, learn some of the language beforehand, and chat with the locals. Get off the beaten path to see some sights that most tourists never visit-- those are the memories that will last a lifetime.
Writing for yourself and writing for an audience are two completely different things. Writing in your journal can be a great form of self expression, but if you want to grow as a writer and get some feedback on your work, start creating eBooks to sell on Amazon or post your writing to WattPad. You’ll receive both criticism and praise, which is guaranteed to make you a more well-rounded writer -- both of which will immensely improve your writing chops.
They say the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, so if you’re a little rusty on algebra (or any other subject for that matter), contact a local high school (or even a college) to see if you can become a volunteer tutor. You’ll kill two birds with one stone because your algebra skills will be improved and your tutee will score higher grades in their class!
If traveling abroad isn’t an option for you, you can also learn about another culture by hosting an exchange student. You can help your exchange student learn English, and they can help you learn their native language, along with sharing interesting information about each other’s cultures.