How I Became a Fast Learner Changing My Habits.
9 effective habits to learn faster and increase your productivity.
Over one year ago, at the age of 25, I left my country and I had a real-life change. I moved to Barcelona to attend Codeworks, a coding boot camp with the idea of improving my life quality, learning more about the world (and about myself), and becoming a good Software engineer.
Soon, I realized that living alone, without my family, at a flat rhythm imposed by my previous lifestyle, was limiting me. Growing at that pace was not enough to satisfy my expectations, of who I want to be.
This is why I needed to change my habits to learn faster and increase my productivity. I want to share this life journey about the last 16 months, to give everyone a panoramic of how to bring yourself to the top step of your possibilities, at work and in daily life.
The first step to increasing your learning pace is to understand how your brain works. All of us are different, but each one has an attitude, a tendency to better understand concepts when they are delivered in a particular way. I never thought about it, but soon I realized watching long tutorials or videos was not very productive for me, as I was only listening to 20% of the whole concept.
The curious thing is that, for 25 years, I disliked reading books. My bad. I had no idea how much I’m able to absorb from a written description. After one year, now I found myself reading every night at least 15 pages of technology books, something that I never imagined 2 years ago.
Find the most efficient way your brain absorbs information and exploits it.
You are probably thinking “I have no time to study!”, but really, don’t you have 5 minutes? With a quick count, if you are awake 16 hours a day, it translates to 960 minutes, and 5 minutes only cover 0.5% of your time. Is not that much, and if every day you get that time to learn something completely new that you don’t know, in one year you will know 365 more new things. With no cost.
In my job, I search every day for an article on coding practices that explains something I still don’t know, and it enriches my personal experience.
If you want to improve your learning speed, just don’t do it randomly! With the latest available technologies, we are plenty of tools to remind us of tasks to do every day, like a simple calendar. So is important to set a recurrent reminder that every day will remember you to practice your problem-solving skill, to read an article on Medium, or whatever concerns your sphere of interest. This is the best way to feed your brain every day and increase its speed in memoizing new concepts and information. In my case, I have a reminder at 10 pm every day to learn 15 new Spanish words. And guess what, even if not perfectly, I’m now able to have a Spanish conversation. And you could do the same, it only takes a second the schedule a new habit.
If you have an insatiable hunger for knowledge, you would be tempted to start a lot of different topics to focus on to learn more things. Please, don’t do it!
I found myself starting a lot of books or courses to learn new things, but soon I realized was not productive. Trying to focus on different topics simultaneously was just making me less focused on what I was studying.
Instead, create your personal to-do list and respect it, starting the next task only when you finish the current. Just to give you an idea, don’t start reading three different books and four video courses just because you want to do all of them as soon as possible. Something that happened to me and that I corrected, fortunately.
Following a list is quite good, but if you decide in advance how much time you want to dedicate to a current topic, you can avoid wasting your time just hanging around it.
So, every time you are starting learning something new, set before an amount of available time to do it. Over that time, dedicate yourself to something else.
This is pretty explicit: Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today. In this sense, is not good to follow a long list of rules that maybe you can find online to manage your time, that’s overwhelming. Nobody wants to base his life on strict timing rules, it is just worse.
But if you want to pick one that I particularly like and follow:
After attending Codeworks as a student, I’ve been lucky enough to get hired there as an instructor. In the beginning, I doubted this position, since my teaching experience was null. However, after some months I got more confident with all the concepts I learned as a student. Not because I was studying more, but because explaining them to someone else helped me to stick the idea in my memory, giving me the chance to understand more in-depth everything. The good Einstein was right in saying:
Furthermore, the teaching activity is constantly improving my communication skills, adding to my skillset concrete and explicit methods to explain abstract concepts.
This seems more like the typical recommendation by your parents, something that at an early age we use to ignore. And I can’t negate I spend my university years sleeping 6 hours a night or taking less care of myself than I should have. Now I changed it. Some months ago I started sleeping at least 8 hours every night, drinking over 1.5L of water and training about 3 times every week.
The result is unbelievable. I’ve never felt so energetic. My attention working on complex problems increase, I’m less stressed and, consequently, my productivity jumped to a higher level, giving me the chance to study more and better.
Last but not least, and maybe the most important as well, don’t burn out. It’s easy to stress yourself over the limit trying to achieve a result, but this will lead to only being less productive. Our body needs to get rest, so keep at least a couple of days a week to relax, enjoy some time with your loved ones and free your mind of worries.