Four hours per day

Is all you need.

If you want to learn something, the best way to do it is bit by bit.

Cramming for exams in university never worked for me. I remember walking into campus straight to the canteen on exam day.

‘Two Red Bulls please.’

Then my knee would spend the next two-hours in the exam room tapping away but my brain would fail to connect the dots.

The most valuable thing I took away from university was learning how to learn.

By my final year, my marks started to improve. Instead of cramming a couple of days before the exam, I spread my workload out over the semester. Nothing revolutionary by any means. But it was to me.

Now whenever I want to learn something, I do the same. I try do a little per day.

For data science and programming, my brain maxes out at around four hours. After that, the work starts following the law of diminishing returns.

I use the Pomodoro technique.

On big days I’ll aim for 10.

Other days I’ll aim for 8.

It’s simple. You set a timer for 25-minutes and do nothing but the single task you set yourself at the beginning of the day for that 25-minutes. And you repeat the process for however many times you want.

Let’s say you did it 10-times, your day might look like:

8:00 am

Pomodoro 1

5-minute break

Pomodoro 2

5-minute break

Pomodoro 3

5-minute break

Pomodoro 4

30-minute break

10:25 am

Pomodoro 5

5-minute break

Pomodoro 6

5-minute break

Pomodoro 7

5-minute break

Pomodoro 8

60-minute break

1:20 pm

Pomodoro 9

5-minute break

Pomodoro 10

5-minute break

2:20 pm

Now it’s not even 2:30 pm and if you’ve done it right, you’ve got some incredible work done.

You can use the rest of the afternoon to catch up on those things you need to catch up on.

Don’t think 10 lots of 25-minutes (just over 4-hours) is enough time to do what you need?

Try it. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish in 4-hours of focused work.

The schedule above is similar to how I spent my day the other day. Except I threw in a bit of longer break during the middle of the day to go to training and have a nap.

I was working through the Applied Data Science Specialization with Python by the University of Michigan on Coursera. The lessons and projects have been incredibly close to what I’ve been doing day-to-day as a Machine Learning Engineer at Max Kelsen.

PS best to put your phone out of sight when you’ve got your timer going. I use a Mac App called Be Focused, it’s simple and does exactly the above.