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12 New Skills to Learn in 2021

A male photographer lining up a shot in his camera.
sergey causelove/Shutterstock

Instead of relying on silly calendars and watches, mark the passage of time this year by acquiring some new skills. (Okay, maybe keep the calendars and watches around.) Whether you stick with them long term or not, the knowledge you’ll gain will be priceless. Here are 12 new skills you can learn in 2021.

January: Cooking

Chapter One in the "How to Cook for Beginners" cookbook.
Rockridge Press

Everyone should have some basic cooking skills. Takeout is great, but cooking for yourself will save your health and your wallet. This is one skill you can tailor to your current skill level.

If boiling water freaks you out, you can just grab a cookbook, like How to Cook for Beginners by Gwyn Novak. It starts out slowly, with how to prepare your kitchen, then moves on to techniques and best practices. You’ll finish off the month with a few simple recipes to master.

Hate cooking? If so, learning more about it might change your mind. Read up on common cooking terms, so recipes aren’t so intimidating. You can also browse through these tips for making your kitchen more inviting.

If you’ve already got the basics down, set a cooking goal that excites you. Planning a trip to Rome this summer? Grab an Italian cookbook and make all the pasta dishes you can’t wait to try. Missing Disneyland? Make some character-inspired dishes to remind you of your favorite place.

February: Public Speaking

Business woman speaking into microphone while giving a presentation.
A Lot Of People/Shutterstock

We’re all going to have to go back to work eventually. While you’re still at home, master your public speaking skills to impress everyone when in-person events resume.

Begin by reading some tips on how to become a better public speaker. Practice one tip at a time to make it more manageable. If you want more guided help, you can take a course on a site like Coursera or Udemy.

Finally, just practice, practice, practice! Even if you don’t love being in front of a crowd, the process will get easier the more you do it.

March: Learn a New Language

The Preply home page.

You won’t become fluent in 30 days, but you’d be surprised at how much you can learn after a month of diligent language study. You can even learn on your phone via language apps like Duolingo and Babbel.

For more personalized learning, consider hiring a language tutor from a site like Preply or italki. You can also reach out to any friends or family who speak the language you’re trying to learn. Having conversations will help you identify weak spots in your vocabulary, so you can learn much more quickly.

April: Self-Defense

Two men demonstrating a self-defense move.
Self-Defense College

Everyone can benefit from knowing some basic self-defense techniques. Find a local self-defense school or ask if your local gym offers classes. You can also check out online courses, like SHE Warrior or Self-Defense College.

Even more important than self-defense is situational awareness and preventative defensiveness. No matter how skilled you are at throwing punches, it’s always better not to have to use your self-defense skills at all. To that end, Spotting Danger Before It Spots You by former Air Marshal, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, is the perfect book to read while you learn.

May: Photography

The "Correcting Exposure" instructions from the book "The Beginner's Photography Guide."

There’s a big difference between taking a good picture and taking an amazing picture. Although cameras and experience certainly play a part, most people can upgrade their vacation photos significantly by learning just a few photography basics.

Search the internet for photography blogs or grab a book like The Beginner’s Photography Guide by Chris Gatcum. It’s chock-full of clear information on everything from exposure to using flash.

Once you understand the basics, grab your phone or camera and start practicing. Take pictures of everything you see, while incorporating the techniques you’ve just learned. Your photos will improve right away.

June: Yoga

A man and woman doing the yoga cobra pose on Ewedoos yoga mats.

Yoga offers a variety of benefits, including improving flexibility, muscle strength, and relaxation. It works well for most body types and can even be tailored to work for those who have disabilities. Not everyone is a yoga person, but there’s no harm in trying it for a month to see how it makes you feel.

Yoga with Adriene is a popular YouTube channel devoted to yogis of all levels. All you need is a yoga mat to get started from home. If you prefer individualized coaching, visit a nearby studio or enroll in classes at your gym.

Ewedoos Yoga Mat

The only accessory a beginning yogi needs.

July: Music

A woman playing a ukulele on the beach.

Learning how to read and play music is great for creativity and your brain. Choose an instrument you’ve always been interested in and learn everything you can. They can be expensive, so visit thrift stores or online resellers before splurging on a brand-new piano or guitar.

If you want to learn music but don’t have a particular instrument in mind, the ukulele is an affordable option that’s easy for beginners to pick up. This kit includes the instrument, picks, a tuner, and a handbook.

Soprano Ukulele

Get started with the ukulele.

August: Stress Management

This is definitely a skill that can be applied to most areas of life. Some stress is normal, but too much can make you feel irritated, tired, and achy. Start your stress management journey by being mindful about what’s causing your stress. Meditation can make you more aware of your emotions and where they’re coming from.

Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can figure out how to remove some of them from your life. For example, if traffic makes you anxious, playing calming music or audiobooks during your commute might help.

If you can’t eliminate the main stressor (like your job), try to find ways to relax in other areas of your life. Ultimately, you’re the only one who can figure out how best to manage your stress.

September: Art

Two patterns in an adult coloring book with red colored pencils lying on top of them.
Jade Summer

Even if you don’t consider yourself an “artsy” type, try your hand at something you’ve always admired. You might be surprised how much you enjoy it. It can be as simple as working through an adult coloring book or diving headfirst into oil painting.

Remember, art is also more than just painting and colored pencils. If you loved learning about photography in May, take your camera to places that inspire you and try to capture what you’re feeling while you’re there. If you like to write poetry, this book will help you get started with skills and prompts.

How to Write Poetry

Perfect for anyone interested in poetry.

October: Nutrition

Many people never learn about basic nutrition, but it can make a huge difference in how you approach food and how you feel. Understanding which nutrients your body needs and which you should avoid can keep you healthy and strong. It’ll also help you avoid being drawn into fad diets that promote unhealthy eating habits.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide by Roberta Larson Duyff is viewed as the gold standard on nutritional information, so it’s a great place to start. Other books on nutrition can be useful, but be wary of the source. Books promoting diets or products are almost always biased.

November: Survival Skills

You don’t have to live in the middle of the woods to have a reason to learn some basic survival skills. You never know when you’re going to need them! The SAS Survival Handbook by John “Lofty” Wiseman is a great place to start. It has instructions on everything from reading the weather and finding food in the wild, to first aid.

SAS Survival Handbook

All the survival skills you'll ever need to know.

For more modern techniques, check out Tom Brown’s Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival. This book shares detailed knowledge on how to create alternative heat, finding food sources in the city, and protecting your home from intruders.

Tom Brown's Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival

How to stay safe in the city and 'burbs.

December: Reading

A woman reading a book in bed.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

If you’re reading this, you might not think this last skill applies to you. But there’s a lot more to reading than just putting the words together.

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren explains different techniques that will vastly improve your reading experience. You’ll find advice on how to read poetry, how to speed read, and much more.

You can also spend this month making your reading time more enjoyable. Create a cozy reading nook at home or compile the perfect reading list. If you already love to read, try out some new authors or genres this month—you might discover some new favorites.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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