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  • Writer's pictureKelly Adams

Reestablishing My Learning Habit

Updated: Aug 31, 2021


LEARN spelled out in wooden tiles on top of other wood blocks.

I've always enjoyed learning, if I find a topic that interests me I will obsessively learn about it. I remember after I watched the movie Titanic at my grandma's house I wanted to learn all I could about the ship. I spent countless hours reading books and watching documentaries trying to gain more knowledge. I devoured books and constantly asked my parents to take me to the library. I even dragged them to the Titanic exhibit in San Francisco (the exhibit was about a 4 and a half hour drive from where we lived). This habit stuck with me throughout college, and was useful when I became interested in martial arts (I spent many hours practicing my skills). But after graduating from college and obtaining a full time job I noticed was spending less time on actively learning new skills.


Earlier this year I wanted to get back into learning; I wanted to adopt learning as a habit but I didn't know what I should be learning about or how to do it. Soon after I watched, The 5 Hour Rule by Thomas Frank. He explained how automation and machines are getting better and it's eliminating jobs in the process but there is a way to succeed in your career even as automation improves. This Rule is the "5 Hour Rule": spend at least 1 hour per day for five days a week learning something new. Thomas suggests a few skills to focus on:

  1. Specific career skills, for example, if you're a video editor then you can spend your time learning about Adobe Premiere Pro.

  2. Decrease in domain dependence, which is when a person has a ton of expertise and skills in one area but they have an inability to transfer those skills to a new field even if those two skills have a lot of underlying similarities. You need to become more adaptable by taking skills you already have and applying them to challenges that are slightly different from what you're used to. (This is similar to building range, see my article about that here)

  3. Essential skills such as public speaking, budgeting, critical thinking.

After watching the video I committed to working on the 5 Hour Rule for the next month. To hold myself accountable I created a "Learning Log", I wrote down the date, how long I spent learning, the type of learning (e.g. programming, business skills, languages) and a description (see Figure 1). What began as a simple journey towards gaining back my time and recommitting to learning, has now become a significant source of joy in my life. After the first week or two of building momentum and trudging along, I looked forward to my daily habit of learning a new skill.

Below is a screenshot of how it looks:

A screens shot of my learning log from 5/9/21 to 5/15/21
Figure 1: Data/Log Section, this is a snippet of a week of learning from 5/7/2021 to 5/15/2021

And

A dashboard of my learning log showing different statistics for my learning habit, including: average time, total time, monthly totals, and total time spent for each category.
Figure 2: The Dashboard as of 5/25/2021

One of the main factors that helped me develop the habit was:

  1. committing towards a doable goal (1 month of learning);

  2. scheduling my time, I spent my time learning during my lunch at work and at least 30 minutes at home; and

  3. my "Learning Log".

I have always been an avid gamer, I've put hundreds of hours into games like Skyrim or Fallout. And my learning log gamified my learning habit, I wanted to see my stats (total time learned, average per week, daily time, etc.) rise; I wanted certain skills to "level up", it became addicting.

Even if you don't decide to document your minutes learning or any other skill you build, I encourage you to begin learning regardless. Maybe having an accountability partner would work better for you, or making a bet using a tool like Beeminder. And while I encourage you to learning something related to your career or building soft skills as Thomas Franks suggests that doesn't mean you can't learn any fun skills like how to play the violin or rollerblade. The main focus should be working on one of the three categories above: (1) specific career skills (2) decreasing domain dependence or (3) essential skills. Regardless of what you do, I believe the habit of continually learning is crucial towards your well being.

Keep on learning and I hope to see you here next week!

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