It's two months in.
You've made some progress, but that same fire you had when you initially committed to learn a new skill is slowly dying down.
You start to tell yourself, "maybe I just don't have the talent..." or "I'm too old to learn a language..."
What was once a top priority in your life is now turning into one of the many pipedreams that you'll get to "some day."
If you've tried to learn a new skill without much success, then this probably sounds familiar.We'll share today why the best way to accelerate the learning curve doesn't come from curriculum, it comes from systemization.
But first, we should know...
How the Learning Curve Works
All of us go through what's called "The Dip" whenever we're learning something new.Here's how the learning curve usually works:
1. You have a steep learning curve, and make significant progress in the first few weeks/months.
2. As you start to go beyond the preliminary steps, your progress plateaus (or dips)
3. After a period of struggle, practice, and patience, you overcome the dip and gain even bigger results.
No matter how talented you are, what you're learning, or who you have working with you, the learning curve is inevitable.The top performing athletes, business leaders, and language learners are constantly battling through the crests and troughs of mastering their respective skillsets. In fact, the main difference between fast learners and average learners is not innate talent, but how fast one can progress from one dip to another.
If you've observed anyone who's quit learning or building something they were initially passionate about, it's because they couldn't get themselves out of "The Dip." Upon deeper analysis, there's three main paths one can take once they're at this stage:
2. Let go, and extend the crisis
3. Experiment, test, and explore to exit crisis mode, and into re-construction.
So how do we ensure we exit crisis mode, and into re-construction during the learning curve, instead of quitting?We have to understand that...
Willpower is Limited
Studies have proven time and time again that repetition trumps innate talent.
As K. Anders. Ericsson, a scientific researcher from Florida State University, elaborates in his paper:
“People believe that because expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance the expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults. This view has discouraged scientists from systematically examining expert performers and accounting for their performance in terms of the laws and principles of general psychology.”
While the information age has made it easier for any one of us to learn how to master a new skill, it's also made it harder for us to exert willpower.Kathleen Vohs, a professor at the University of Minnesota, notes that "there is research that shows people still have the same self-control as in decades past, but we are bombarded more and more with temptations," and that "our psychological system is not set up to deal with all the potential immediate gratification."
To test this, researchers placed participants in situations in which they had to practice self-control—not laughing at a funny movie or not eating chocolate-chip cookies in front of them. The control group could laugh or eat as many cookies as they wanted.
The results? The group that had to resist temptation did not perform as well on the second task as the group that was allowed to give in to temptation[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="986"]
Photo Credit to New York Times [/caption]So we've established that work > talent, but that willpower is harder to exert in today's landfill of distractions.This is why the best strategy to accelerate the learning curve is through...
Everything we do in life is made up of systems.There's a system you go through when you:
- Wake up (i.e. make your bed, hop on the shower, make coffee, etc.)
- Cook dinner (i.e. chop vegetables, preheat the oven, set the dinner table, etc.)
- Shower (i.e. turn the water on, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.)
Without systems, we're forcing our brains to use up its limited energy (glucose) to make these small decisions throughout the day.
The result? Decision fatigue.
According to psychologist, Roy F. Baumeister, "our ability to make the right investment or hiring decision may be reduced simply because we expended some of our willpower earlier by [holding our] tongue in response to someone's offensive remark or when we exerted ourselves to get to the meeting on time."
It's the same reason why the President of the United States, Barack Obama, wears the same colored suits everyday.
"You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make." -Barack Obama
He leaves us with this piece of advice:
"You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia."
To help you accelerate the learning curve today, we'll leave you with some systemization tips to get you started.
1. Frequency > Quantity
As contradictory as this advice may sound, it's often more effective in the long-run to limit your learning time when you're getting started.It's natural to have your initial passions fuel the desire to binge learn, but as we've shared, this fuel will naturally die down.What's more important is consistency.
When we look back at our students at Rype, the most successful ones are those who have consistently booked regular lessons every week over several months.This means that instead of trying to learn everything in one sitting or one week, learn in small chunks (i.e. 30 mins/day, one chapter, one wireframe), and break it up over a span of time.
"I learned that everything is reps and mileage. The more miles you ski, the better a skier you become; the more reps you do, the better your body."-Arnold Schwarzenegger
2. Schedule ahead of time
What's not on your schedule won't get done.Upon researching the successful habits of over 200 billionaires, Olympic athletes, and entrepreneurs, Kevin Kruse reported that none of them mentioned a to-do list. But almost all of them had a schedule of their most important tasks.
"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." -Stephen Covey
To take it a step further, scheduling your learning ahead of time decreases the likelihood that our brain will forget in the near future, especially with the number of distractions we face everyday.One simple way to do this is use your calendar (i.e. Google Calendar) and set repeat events for days you want to learn.For example, here's how we systemize scheduling our weekly newsletter: Three to Thrive Thursday.
Step 1: Edit event
Step 2: Check 'Repeat' and click 'Edit'
Step 3: Choose your frequency of repeats and click 'Done'
3. Batch similar activities
Batching is a secret weapon that too many of us undervalue.
Switching tasks back and forth is the most dangerous cause of productivity loss. Another reason is that certain activities are better performed during certain parts of the day.Science shows that the moments upon waking up is when the prefrontal cortex (creative part of our brain) is most active, while the analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on.
For example, instead of answering emails and making phone calls throughout the day, you can batch everything in one part of the day, so you're not having to go back and forth.The same thing applies to learning. If you're learning a language, you can decide to batch all of your writing assignments in the morning, and all of your speaking practice sessions in the evening, when you're more relaxed.
Just make sure that the activities you decide to batch will require your brain to perform similar functions.
How do you best learn?
We covered a lot in this post about using systemization to accelerate the learning curve, and how willpower and decision fatigue ties into the way we best learn.
To recap the 3 tips we shared on systemizing your learning:
1. Frequency > Quantity
2. Schedule ahead of time
3. Batching similar activities
Now we'd love to hear from you. Will you try systemizing your learning process? What are other learning strategies that have worked for you?