We've all heard about the 10,000 hour rule to mastery in a field. But how long does it take to be good at something? I transitioned into the tech industry a year ago and there seems to be an endless amount of things to learn. After mapping out the skills, I went on a quest to find a systematic approach to learning anything fast. Here's what I've found.
You must first learn to embrace the learning process. Lifelong learners are more likely to enjoy the process and be fulfilled. I personally found it liberating when I learned to enjoy the process rather than the results. Doing so helped me to be action-driven and to focus on developing my skills rather than being discouraged by the amount of learning that I needed to do. Conveniently in the information age, there are tonnes of resources in the format that you wish to learn from books, videos, podcasts, mentors, seminars, to a classroom setting.
Why did you decide to learn this skill? People who identify the reasons and the purpose of learning a skill are more likely to stick to the plan.
When I started at ElementIQ, I identified the company needs, my interests, and what I can offer. I aligned it to my long-term goal to become a conversion-focused UX/UI Designer and shared the learning opportunities with the team. The team was on board with the idea and they equipped me with the projects and the resources to succeed. Having a supportive team helped me to stay motivated to develop the skills as I had the opportunity to apply what I learned right away.
The best part about learning a new skill is that there's a likelihood that someone that has already done it. Identify these people and find out how they did it and learn from them. They'll help you shorten your learning curve by teaching you the shortcuts and the best practices. There are plenty of online resources to help me become a conversion-focused UX/UI Designer but I went to RED Academy, a tech career-focused school to get a formal education from industry experts. This investment helped me save so much time as opposed to learning on my own without any guidance.
As Tony Robbins puts it: "Many great leaders have proven that the fastest way to master any skill, strategy or goal in life is to model those who have already forged the path ahead. If you can find someone who is already getting the results that you want and take the same actions they are taking, you can get the same results.”
According to Josh Kaufman's book The First 20 Hours, to learn fast one must learn just enough to self-correct. First, research the best practices then take action. Then, instead of perfecting the technique right away, try practicing it. Find out what's working and what needs improvements then hit the resources again.
Kaufman summarized it as “Instead of trying to be perfect, focus on practicing as much as you can as quickly as you can while maintaining ‘good enough’ form.”
In learning any skill, self-proclaimed “human guinea pig” Tim Ferriss asks himself "Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?" For example, there are around 250,000 words in the English language according to linguist Paul Nation. However, 2,000 words cover 80% of the written text. This suggests that instead of trying to learn all 250,000 words and being overwhelmed, you're more likely to gain competency if you identify and focus on learning the 2,000 words.
A Harvard study suggested that dreaming may reactivate and reorganize recently learned material, which would help improve memory and boost performance. In addition, light sleep stages 1 and 2 have been shown to be important in helping the brain being plastic to learning new material. After stretching yourself to learn new materials, take a nap or get a good night sleep and your brain will consolidate what you've learned throughout the day.
Not only sleep will help you maintain learned information, it helps you in other areas of your life from being more alert, have more energy, experience less stress, and improve overall happiness.
Today's society is unique as the internet enables us to learn anything that we want. To learn fast, devote yourself to become a lifelong learner, find the reason why you're learning the skill, identify the 20% that is accountable for the 80% of the results and practice deliberately. You can learn anything, but you can't learn everything. What will you learn next?