You’re really excited about your future.
There is so much you want to learn. Really so so much, that you don’t know where to start. Congrats! That is way better than being bored. What’s more, far better, you are aware of the common pitfalls.
Most people usually get inspired for some goal, sprint at max effort for 1–2 weeks, burn out, push the goal into the back of their mind, and never think of it or touch it again. New Year’s resolutions are a classic example.
First things first — check your bases
You said you want to learn many things. That is great. The first thing you should ask yourself: “Is what I want what I want?”
In some cases, we lie to ourselves about what we want. Other times, we are being deceived and we don’t even know it. We might want to do something because of vanity, on the grounds that our neighbors are doing it, because of our self-identity, or because of some long-held ‘dream’ grasped claw-handed from childhood.
Begin by doubting yourself. Find the things you actually want, not the things you say you want. It will save a lot of time in the long run.
Reflect and make space
Next, you have to make space. Before you chose to change, your day was already full of somethings. You slept, ate, work and did stuff — 24 hours a day, every day. To make room for new things, something else will have to go. There is always a sacrifice.
In an perfect world, we would go into our day, surgically remove the habits, activities, people and work least in line with our goals and add in only those things most in line with them. Unfortunately, behavioral change isn’t quite the exact. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t be efficient about it.
Here’s how I’d do it:
- Track. Figure out what your days looks like: when you woke up, when you went to work, how many hours you spent on every task etc. and what time you went to sleep.
- Dissect. Figure out what you can sacrifice. Are you wasting time on Social Networks? Are there low-quality people in your life? What are the 15–20% of activities that are making up 80%+ of your empty, meaningless time?
- Replace. Have in mind I didn’t say add. Adding is hard. You were already using all 24 hours before. You can’t exactly live on 25 hours. It is way better to replace. The basic protocol is:1. identify the trigger for the activity or habit you want to replace,2. spent 1–2 weeks “re-programming” that trigger to your new, more beneficial activity.
Always have in mind that making space is hard. You will only be able to do one new thing, two at most.
Choose the most important thing, spend 1–2 weeks making that practice into a habit, then repeat the above process for improvements you want to make.
Okay, but how to choose the “most important thing?” By choosing the lead domino.
Choose the lead domino
When you have a lot of interesting things ahead of you and you don’t know what to choose, choose the thing that makes everything easier. If you want to an entrepreneur, you might want to start by quitting your full time job first. If you want to be a make a good speech you might want to stop being so shy.
This clearly requires an exercise in imagination. You need to be able to see second order and third order effect. Show skills, habits and life changes cascade into future changes and how those future changes keep snowball into considerably more changes down the line.
A few more tools:
1. Aim for a 80% success rate. Humans learn best when they are optimally challenged. This happens somewhere around 80%. Keep track of your weekly practice goals, and aim to achieve them 5–6 days a week. If you’re under that, you’re being too aggressive. If you had a perfect week, maybe it’s time to add some more challenge to your life.
2. Work in stages. When you’ve spent 4–6 weeks on some skill, seen considerable improvement, and progress has slowed, it makes sense to put that skill aside to work on a new one. Shockingly better if this new expertise effectually affects your old one. Possibly you were taking a shot at composing and now will take a shot at open talking. Possibly you enjoy a reprieve from dance to yoga.
3. Put skills on keep up mode. Hidden law of the universe: changing is much harder than remaining the same. Useful side effect of this law of the universe: putting skills on maintenance requires very little effort. This is why athletes can retain muscle mass despite dropping training to 10% of previous levels. This is why someone can still speak Japanese despite working on it much less than they used to.
It takes very little, maybe 15 minutes 3 times a week, to keep up a skill. This prevents regression, which is costly. Forgetting a language and then relearning it costs a lot more than keeping it up.
4. Reload. Most high level athletes halve the amount of training they do every 4–6 weeks. This gives the body an opportunity to recover from pent-up stress and actually produces a wave of “super compensation” where the athlete reaps all the benefits from training during that rest and recovery period.
Try planning reloads for your own daily practice. Let to subconscious do its work. Take some time off each maybe a couple months. Take a three day weekend. Read some fiction. You might find it easier to concentrate after you come back.