I wanted to learn more about the innards of git. So I built Gkv (http://www.github.com/ybur-yug/gkv). It helped a ton. And it ended up even getting me some imaginary internet ego points. Heh.
edit: Upon looking over my repos. It appears just about every one in the top 5 was inspired by "I wanna learn about this. I shall document the process and make a thing". So, I guess this has worked really well for me.
The path you take for learning is shaped by what you want to do. So your question might then take the next logical step: what are things I should apply myself to?
Ideally, whatever you do benefits more than just yourself. If you search for needs that people have, you can find very effective ways of helping people and alleviating stress in the world.
Elon Musk basically had a vision: I wanna colonize space, I wanna make rockets. He had no prior understanding of how rockets were made, but he had the beautiful vision, the happy goal, and everything else fell into place. Strive for a beautiful vision that helps many achieve prosperity and you can't go wrong with how the journey shapes itself.
Some other ideas...have a pipeline and modest goals. Be happy if you read 45 minutes every day and don't think you need to read giant text books to learn. Find slim books! 150 pages max. But get really, really good books from the masters in your chosen field.
Avoiding procrastination is about discipline - if it's a problem, address the root cause, don't just chop off the leaves (sorry for the terrible analogy).
Compare it to say, quitting smoking. If you want to quit smoking, do you ban yourself from entering all places that sell cigarettes, and cut off contact with all your friends who smoke? Of course not! If you truly want to quit you ought to be able to go anywhere, do anything, talk to anyone, and still not smoke. It may not be pleasant but being able to do that == being able to truly control the problem.
Yes, actually that's a great way to quit. Find out what triggers you and avoid it. Changing your environment is incredibly beneficial.
"It may not be pleasant but being able to do that == being able to truly control the problem"
Who cares about controlling the problem? It's not a drug addiction where a single relapse can ruin your life. If a simple environment change allows me to spend 2 hours learning each night instead of on hackernews... Well that's a win.
Well, if procrastination is liable to hinder you in buckling down to learn things, it's pretty important to find a way to really control it. Otherwise HN/the internet will be just be replaced by some other distraction offline.
How likely is it that your procrastination is really limited to whatever manifestations it currently has on the internet, rather than being a general problem you have to correct?
If it really is limited to certain sites, then getting offline or blocking those sites is a reasonable productivity hack, but otherwise you're just sidestepping the real issue and it'll only come back to bite you in other ways later, no matter how many times you change your environment.
I don't think procrastination is the problem with most people spending time on learning. Personally, I've found it is simply an issue with distraction/focus/energy/motivation like going to the gym.
I've spent an hour learning per work day for the last two years simply by going to the park after work and reading books/writing in my notebook. I've missed maybe a dozen days in the last year. Yet, if I get on my computer at home intending to study... i hardly ever end up doing anything useful.
Going without internet can be a great way to dim the lights and regain focus. It also eases your dependency on convenience and encourages you to plan ahead.
Just poison your whole pack! But seriously, for those who don't want to deal with fixing their lack of discipline right now, I highly recommend SelfControl and its counterparts on other platforms. Block the procrastination-inducing parts of the internet like reddit and HN, keep all the important parts it's impossible to learn without, like StackOverflow.
(Restrict it for less and less each day, and maybe you'll find yourself weaning yourself off like cigarettes. I haven't made it that far yet.)
This has worked out surprisingly well!
Every so often I plug in, download some pages, and then unplug and go sit down to read. If I get an idea while reading I jot it down and go back to my reading. The next time I get up to go plug in, half the things I thought I wanted to look at are no longer interesting.
At work, unplugging is not an option. I do all my work inside VMs. In my main work VM I've edited /etc/hosts to block HN, Reddit, and other distractions. I have a separate VM that I use for personal mail and leisure browsing. When I'm not using this VM I shut it down and if I want to browse the web I have to boot it up again.
All this has done wonders for my focus while not being quite as drastic as cutting the cable.
Maybe- maybe not. For me, it was getting a 'third' place- somewhere that isn't work and isn't home. Work is for work, and home is for play.
There's a nice 24 hour diner (sans wi-fi, so I'm kinda in accord with you here) between me and work where I can have a serving of toast while clacking away on my laptop.
So my M-F schedule is work from 8-5, personal work from 5-7ish, and then home (or bar staggering) from 7 on.
My comment was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, I just wanted to present another option- especially for those that don't have the luxury of living alone like me!
If you're on a Mac, Dash.app is a great way to read documentation, distraction free. No internet required (after you downloaded the docs you need).
So brave, don't think I can ever do that, I just use browser extensions like Leechblock to block certain website after a period of time to fight procrastination
"If, namely, we wish our trains of ideation and volition to be copious and varied and effective, we must form the habit of freeing them from the inhibitive influence of reflection upon them, of egoistic preoccuptation about their results.
Say to yourself, 'I won't waste another minute on this miserable thing, and I don't care an iota whether I succeed or not.' Say this sincerely, and feel it; and go out and play, or go to bed and sleep, and I am sure the results next day will encourage you to use the method permanently."
His success with Microsolutions led him towards creating AudioNet -> Broadcast.com .
Sure, he benefited from nice timing, but also he was quite smart about protecting his windfall(that infamous Yahoo collar trade:http://investmentxyz.blogspot.com/2006/05/cubans-collar-anat...).
I really can't speak about his activities since 2000, but most of it has seemed quite sane and sensible.
I think it's important to pace yourself.
Secondly, I think it's perhaps important for some to be
involved in multi-disciplinary pursuits.
Look around for inspirations.
Celebrate your successes.
I would like to add that although motivation is good but its fickle, it might ditch you for days if not weeks, so its better to have discipline when you want to get something done. Like, finishing the project you started couple of months back. Discipline is very hard in the beginning but once you get it, it will be very very helpful and easy to finish/achieve goals.
For further reading you might want to look into Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit". If you're a procrastinator, "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore might also be of value to you.
Update: Several other suggestions made here (such as getting rid of the internet or using a buddy system) can be interpreted in terms of getting rid of a bad habit or as to how to implement (i.e. learn) this learning habit exactly (a buddy system is one way).
What I like about it is that its created by a neurobiologist and an engineer so it combines understanding of brain function combined with practical methods to work around its limitations like procrastination and concentration.
I expect everyone will have a different take away but for me, it was the role of how chunking not just involved in learning but procrastination. When we approach something unstructured, the complexity can generate the type of discomfort that leads to procrastination. Seeing that chunking not only helps the brain remember something but helps it stay on mission has been helpful.
1. If it feels like drudgery, don't force yourself.
2. Be patient , and look for inspiration.
A couple years ago, I had lost interest in learning new languages or side projects. I picked up woodworking and have pursued it actively since. Being away from the computer has helped me recharge my batteries.
Through woodworking, I got motivated to build a blog aggregator for all the woodworking blogs I followed. I picked up ruby, node, and redis to build the site that's now being used by other woodworkers.
Recently I finished some sci-fi novels, which I rarely read. Some technology and themes in the book inspired me to get back into learning about AI, something else I had gotten burnt out about since grad school. Now I'm learning Clojure to implement some ideas.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from a well known woodworker:
“We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our lives” - James Krenov
“Working alone poses problems of discipline and aims, and you have to get on lifelong terms with your work and yourself. For most of us, in the beginning stages and perhaps always, it’s a condition of struggle and discovery and secret satisfactions.
Sometimes you are not making as much money as the plumber…, but you are alive with your work, and I think that one of the important points to keep you going is that you enjoy it-not hobby enjoyment or periodic enjoyment, but the enjoyment of being with it.
That, of course, means that you must save your energy, you must develop methods of working with wood that lead to a sort of harmony, a satsifaction that you are, with a minimum of effort, achieving the maximum of sensitivity. You are saying what you want to say, finally, and you’re doing it in a way that, despite all the sweat and hard work, gives you satisfaction.
This is the way you want to live.”
— James Krenov, A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook
I had written about my favorite book on the subject a few years ago - http://www.swaroopch.com/2011/01/17/pomodoro/
"People ask me all the day how is it possible I read sooooooo many books. Is it fun? Do I have something special? Well no, reading is hard, it's a chore, it's work. It's no fun at all, I do it because it's for my betterment. I read everywhere and at any time: while eating, while waiting for the bus, in the bus, on a 10 mn break. If you understand this won't be fun, you'll get along and get to it."
"Everybody wants to look good, but noone wants to lift those heavy ass weights."
Recognize when you are. Then attack!
I've never retained anything when I'm trudging through material just to get through it.
Let me tell you my brief story--I taught myself how to program originally because I was all hyped up from the movies (the black screens, binary numbers, etc) and thought it would be the "cool" thing to do. Well, the hype died--quickly.
I waited and waited for that adrenaline rush/motivational burst to sporadically come into my life. Nothing came of it.
So I was disappointed. To learn you can not just rely on motivation (though it certainly helps), but rather you must rely on your discipline. Teach yourself to follow guidelines, set small goals and gradually increase them. This process will enhance your learning potential exponentially.
Just discipline. That's all it takes. You have to power through that, even if it seems so hard.
On another note, I read Hacker News and read many articles on subjects I want to learn to rejuvenate me if I feel disappointed or, unmotivated. Good luck!
Was it that you'd thought the subject to be "good to know more about", but did not find interesting enough?
I bet there have been at least a few subjects that fascinated you enough to stay awake at night and ignore all the other distractions/quick gratifications.
What are they and how are they different from the ones that you somehow never get to learn?
2. Get an idea that moves you
3. Do it
5. You learned without noticing
for example, it's really tough to tolerate all this angularjs, reactjs stuff because I've always built my web apps using jQuery, it's hard to justify being more verbose for the sake of keeping up with a trend when it is counter productive for me. Even more harder So a good reward here is money or an established project that is interesting and front end framework was a requirement.
- Set 2 or 3 learning topic goals - write these down
- Identify what the best resources are available to learn that topic, purchase them (making a financial commit to it helps drive me too), ensure you have a mix of reading, audio and video material
- Find out who the bloggers are in those topic areas and subscribe to their blogs, getting regular news articles and posts helps keeps me motivated
- Join a user group in your local area so you can meet other people to engage in discussion about the topic
- Lock in a few hours over the weekend or in the evenings to go to a cafe or to sit at your desk with a coffee and go over the material
- Write about the topic, talk to your friends and colleagues about the topic, do a presentation on the topic to a user group
This is the process I have been following for years since I left university and has helped me master new technologies and business management theories.