Learning new stuff

Through our career we face a lot of demands to learn new stuff. New versions of products are being constantly released and keep yourself up-to-date is quite demanding. What used to be widely used product in the last year might become obsolete this year. Sometimes we realize that our current platform is not the one we would like to work with in the next five years or you just get a great contract or job offer for concurrent platform. So we are constantly learning …

Learning new stuff takes time
According to Dr. K. Anders Ericsson becoming a top of the field expert takes 10 000 hours (however there are opinions refusing this statement). In the IT industry this estimate might apply to guys with master certifications (9 years give or take of experience). However one cannot be an expert in every area. Most of the time you need to be just more or less good enough.

I really liked Mr. Kaufman’s video from TED on this topic. According to him learning to a good enough level takes 20 hours which he demonstrated in the end by playing ukulele thus finishing his 20 hours learning spree.

Major points when learning something new:

1. Deconstruct the skill
Human brain works best with small chunks of data. This is the same approach as we do on project. Dividing work into smaller feasible tasks.

2. Learn just enough to self-correct
Like in any programming language you can never learn all commands but after certain amount of time you can clearly distinguish what is going to work and what isn’t.

3. Remove practice barriers
All those notifications that every device make are very distracting. Switch them off, activate Do Not Disturb or whatever, …

4. Practice at least 20 hours
The last thing but most important – the actual learning and practicing. 🙂

5. (My own) Exercise
It doesn’t matter what or how intense you exercise. Even running for just 15 minutes will do the trick.

6. (My own – yes one more) Eat
Eating regularly (junk food doesn’t count really :-P) is like a fuel for your brain. Plenty of really good recipes can be found at http://bbcfood.co.uk or http://littlefoodlover.com

I tried it myself!
… when I was learning for the Statistics exam. I successfully removed all barriers, decomposed the tasks and began learning. I practiced for 25 hours spread in two weeks, exercised and ate.

The result? Passed on the first attempt. It works 🙂

Happy learning!


About Jiří Hubáček

Experienced consultant and blogger for Microsoft SQL Server and related products. Likes cats, workouts and delicious food. Enjoys sailing, traveling, time spent with wife and friends.
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