Learning How to Learn
As 2018 began, I spent some time thinking about my goals for this year. An area that I wanted to focus on is improving upon how I learn. Many have argued that the ability to learn is the most valuable skill you can possess throughout your career and working in the ever-changing field of technology, I certainly would not disagree.
So I decided to invest in the 10 Steps to Learn Anything Quickly course offered by Simple Programmer. The product page is a bit salesy here, but if you can get past that and read through the course content and watch the videos, there are some good fundamentals to be found.
The 10 steps are:
- Get the Big Picture
- Determine the Scope
- Define Success
- Find Resources
- Create a Learning Plan
- Filter Resources
- Learn Enough To Get Started
- Play Around
- Learn Enough To Do Something Useful
The class delves deeper into each step and illustrates with a number of specific examples. I’ve been trying to apply the methodology from this course to improve my ability and efficiency in teaching myself new things. My biggest takeaway has been to try and narrow my learning scope a bit more and to pick topics that I actually think I am going to use. In the past I’ve been guilty of plowing through a whole online course and only remembering bits and pieces. This ‘watch me as I code and repeat the same steps on your computer’ approach results in a lot of information overload and not much practicality.
I really agree with the idea of learning enough at the start to get a base (because you don’t know what you don’t know) but then playing around and letting your curiosity guide you to more learning on your own. Watching a series of lectures one after the other isn’t necessarily going to achieve that. I also think it is smart to save off a list of resources that you can easily go back and reference - I tried to do this as I’ve been learning the Scala language.
Some other general self-learning tips I came across through Udacity:
Remember the WHY: Every time you start a learning project, take 2 minutes to remember where you’ll be AFTER you successfully complete it.
Be Realistic: Set learning goals you can reach. You’ll feel great, and your confidence will grow. Small accomplishments on a daily basis will help you succeed over the long term.
Forget willpower, focus on process: Emotional factors like inspiration are unreliable. Successful learning means establishing routines that are conducive to making quantifiable progress every day.
Be accountable to someone: Your spouse. Your best friend. Your social media network. It doesn’t matter who. Just make sure someone knows your learning goals, and can nudge you if you slip. I’ve been doing this through posts on this website. Even though no one really cares but me, it helps make me feel more accountable since I’m publicly listing my progress.
Be patient: Learning is dynamic. It continues. You’ll see some results right away, but other victories unfold over time. Look forward to surprising yourself with the skills you master, and the goals you achieve.
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