21 January 2019

My Learning - Part 3 - My strategy

Before going into details about how I learn, let's look at my overall strategy and process.

Learning a new topic

  1. Build a learning foundation
    • Find the most influential experts
    • Find the most praised learning resources (e.g. books or courses)
    • Find the key concepts
    • Find the different schools of thought and learn their differences
    • Meet people with the purpose to start understanding the playing field
  2. Build a topic foundation
    • Study the most praised learning resources
    • Study the one school of thought (if several) that makes the most sense to me
    • Use only a few resources that focuses on core concepts
    • Make sure the few resources I learn from stick
    • Meet people with the purpose to learn from them
  3. Practice the topic foundation
    • Find ways to practice the foundation to make it stick
    • Experiment and start to ask more in depth questions
    • Meet people with the purpose to get feedback and guidance
  4. Branch out
    • Find blogs, podcasts or other sources where the new and fresh ideas are spread
    • Learn "everything there is to learn"
    • Gradually question more and more of my foundation
    • Meet people with the purpose to mutually challenge each other's ideas
Important: I don't move from one step to the other, I make additions to my approach meaning early on I only "build a learning foundation" while later on I do all of 1, 2 and 3; not just "practice the topic foundation" but I likely spend most time with the step I most recently added.

This strategy is basically the same no matter what I want to learn but different topics and different levels of ambition will alter the time I spend on individual steps, how I move between them and how much time I spend in general.

Make learning happen

How I make myself learn things:
  • Describe what I will gain from learning this
  • Clearly distinguish between focused and distracted learning
  • Make time for it (prioritization, not magic)
  • Have the resources ready (e.g. podcast episodes downloaded)
  • Surround myself with passionate learners
  • Remove unwanted distractions
  • Create a rough plan
  • Join discussion groups etc. to constantly expose myself to the topic
  • Engage friends in my learning (if possible) and/or try to find new peers
  • Constantly plan experiments or tasks so I don't get stuck with information gathering
  • Keep track of my progress and remind myself of completed milestones (not predefined milestones, see Motivation for explanation)

Key ideas

  • Motivation is my most important tool and must be handled with great care
  • People are my second most important tool and must be handled with great respect
  • Focus my attention on the most influential experts
  • Teacher quality is more important than content quality
  • Only focus on the big lessons
  • For things to stick, I need to make them "my own"
  • When I've already learned something, reflection is more effective when I need to "relearn it"
  • A clear direction is invaluable
  • Finishing something for the sake of finishing it is a waste of time
  • Act on the things I learn (I always know enough to start)

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