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Overcoming Barriers to Learning

What stops you studying?

Studying whilst working is probably the most useful thing you could do right now. With economic uncertainty and a recovering island, making yourself safe and employable in today’s climate should be at the forefront of your mind. You may have been forced to change career, you may have lost your job or your confidence or you may just have decided that now is the time to further your career.

So, what is holding you back? Fear, money, time, direction?

In this article we outline real barriers that can stop you from achieving your full potential and creating your best working life. We give you some positive and forward-thinking ideas to motivate and inspire you to continue with lifelong learning and be the best that you can be.

Work out your why

Work out why you want or need to change. List the five values that matter most to you in your working life, which could be values such as adventure, creativity, influence, challenge. Find a journal and start noticing what drives you. In order to get a grasp on where our lives are going, it often takes some introspection. To help you work out what your strengths are and in which areas you may need help, you may benefit from Insights Discovery Personality Profiling, which will help you to better understand yourself and others. 

Overcoming Fear

Adopt a Growth Mindset

We all have those moments of ‘I can’t do this'. If you believe you can do it, however, you can do it. Foster a positive attitude at the offset and you will build your confidence and achieve what you set out to achieve. Jane McGonigal, in her book Superbetter, advises breaking down your achievements into bitesize and achievable chunks, with a methodology called gamification. You can do this with study. Plan it well, reward yourself, and carry on with the next stage. 

Tap into Coaching and Mentoring

Whilst studying, it is important to have someone alongside you, not necessarily physically, but to motivate you, encourage you and be your champion. Find someone to bounce ideas off, and give you a push when you’re struggling. It really makes a difference.   Sometimes speaking to a mentor or an expert can help. We are a coaching centre at the GTA and we work closely with established and experienced coaches to help individuals and teams progress both professionally and personally.

Make Connections for inspiration

It’s important to realise you are not alone and that there are many people studying out there, so find a group you can join, and you can support each other. Talk through your ideas with a Startup group, or pop along to a networking event such as the Women’s Business Network or Rise and Shine Guernsey. Perhaps join a local discussion group with the local Workers Education Association, plus there are always regular meetups at the Guille Allès Library and the Digital Greenhouse. 

Accessing Money and Employer 


Your employer may put aside a budget for staff training. So it is worth speaking with your manager or your HR team in the first instance. Your contract may also have some flexibility for studying and exams and you may be eligible for paid leave. You may also have leeway for a bursary from work. Look at your contract.

In Guernsey you may be able to access funding for an independent student bursary* from Student Finance Guernsey (email [email protected] to find out more). Some grants via education may cover child care costs but you need to be financially assessed. There is also a not-for-profit organisation called Bright Futures which may be able to offer a grant to help with courses and training, plus careers advice. 

A balanced working life is paramount to good holistic health, and if you can ease off on work pressures in order to make space for your training, then you will feel a sense of achievement, rather than a sense of overwhelm.  Likewise, if you are ‘underwhelmed’ at work perhaps this is the time to fill the void with training.

*(if over 25 years old or over 22 years old and have worked for 3 years. You need to meet their criteria plus there is a sliding scale related to income, but it is worth enquiring.)


Do you have any requests for better accessibility and special resources to help with your learning? Does your employer need to make reasonable adjustments to help you access more study time or suitable premises in which to study? You may need help with transportation to your course or exam; special resources that have been created for students with dyslexia; screens with coloured film; or reading software for reduced vision. If these needs are not being met, speak to

Making More Time

When the responsibilities of life become overwhelming, the thought of adding time to study often feels insurmountable. However, if you plan your study time carefully and diligently, you will find that you look forward to it, as a means of doing something different. The act of learning something completely new, can take you out of your every day and bring a new sense of achievement.

Set aside time, work out what method you like to study – little and often or big chunks - and put aside that time. Make your schedule known to family, get support with children where you can, trade future favours for childcare if you are a single parent. And then stick to your schedule. 

Tips to maximise your time

TIP: Try the Pomodoro method – this shows you how to break your time down into chunks. Meditation practice can help improve focus and instil calm, in order to prepare for regular study. Use your time wisely and watch TED talks on your topic or about studying in general, listen to podcasts about self-improvement in the car, or whilst you’re washing up. Immerse yourself in your subject and motivate yourself whenever you have the chance. 

Finding Direction

Find your career journey

Sometimes you reach a point in your life where you question whether you are on the right career path, what you can do to improve your prospects, or even how to make a change in your career. At the GTA we can guide you through the steps you need to take to make any changes, and advise on relevant training courses to help you reach your goals.

Update your skills

Consider taking quick computer skills orientated courses, or watch YouTube videos to help brush up and refresh those computer skills, making your life much more efficient. When the technical elements become second nature, making study more accessible through using applications such as Excel or Word, then this only enhances your learning experience. . At the GTA we have a range of courses, including Microsoft Office Suite courses at different levels to suit all abilities, which you can find on Why not sign up for our bimonthly e-letter to get the latest news on available courses. 

Transferable skills

You may already have the skills you need but you don’t realise it. Skills such as managing budgets, multitasking, working with diversity and multicultural issues, gathering and extracting information, could all prove to be useful. Do a skills audit on a giant piece of paper and add your abilities and qualities as you reflect on your career history to date. You may be surprised what pops up!

TIP: EXPERIMENT – Ask to try new things at work or grow that skill set through work experience or volunteering.

Be organised

Create a space for study if possible where you can leave your notes, books and stationery out and go back to it when you have to. Keep things minimal. Keep your space just for you.

Summing it up

The way to think around this, is that you can always stay the way you are, right now, forever…. or you can have a go, and change your situation. Discuss your concerns with your line manager, mentor or trusted friend, and write down what is worrying you. 

Recognise your fear, let it pass and do it anyway! 

Caterina Allaway, Marketing Manager