How to Stick to a Learning Habit

Mar 06, 2020

Learning may seem straightforward. You look for the best sources, schedule a time, take notes, and practice till you perfect.

But nothing ever goes as planned. You may procrastinate, lose concentration, or get distracted by your smartphone.

Even if you pick up a learning streak, a few days of break can derail your progress. You may feel like you won’t get back on track.

This is normal.

Except, when you miss your learning goals too frequently and end up losing a lot of time.

So, how do you stay committed?

I don’t have a recipe. But I’ll share an experience that can help you stick to a learning habit.

If Gabby can do it, so can you!

Gabby is my friend and ex-colleague. She’s a software developer with big ambitions for her career.

One day I saw her watching a video on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

I thought she was also trying to figure out what all the buzz was about. So I asked her about the video.

I remember her saying, “AI is an algorithm that allows machines to make autonomous decisions...” Her explanation was one of the best I came across.

It was apparent: she had spent time continuously learning about these technologies.

But Gabby’s job had nothing to do with AI.

Was she future-proofing her career? Yes, however, that’s only true to a certain point.

Gabby had developed an interest in data science. As she told me, she got hooked on it after experimenting with data on her favorite movies.

She was passionate, excited, and wanted to become a data scientist.

But a month later, Gabby was losing her motivation. She didn’t have the wrong goal or self-doubt. Still, she got deviated from her goals.  

If anyone asked her about data science, she’d look stressed.

Eventually, the workload increased, leaving hardly any time to learn after work; she was exhausted.

Despite that, Gabby kept hope and made improvements.

She said, “It was like hanging on the edge of a cliff. I was stuck. I’d schedule a time for learning but end up wasting it for stupid reasons like checking Instagram. I started feeling bad.

“After losing two months, I realized I need to start doing the right things. I tried everything. I switched off my phone, started taking notes, listened to podcasts while commuting, went to meetups on weekends, read books on how to develop habits, meditate before coding,...”

For Gabby, it was a slow transition to escape from her addiction to reality. She discovered that focusing on her learning goals was within control. She finally figured out how to manage distractions and recover.

Within six months, Gabby developed expertise in data science. She moved to a role that she desired and earned twice as much.

The way forward

Discomfort is a part of progress. But never force yourself into learning if it doesn’t work. The way you learn and the efficiency of learning is more important than speed.

When you’re distracted, observe yourself and experiment with one way to get back. Think of learning as a process that needs continuous enhancements.

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