I had no job.
Then I started driving Uber on the weekends to pay for my studies.
I loved meeting new people but I hated driving a car all the time. Traffic, stop, start, fuel, the air, the aircon, all of it.
I studied machine learning. All day, five days a week. And it was hard. It's still hard.
9-months in, I got a job.
It's the best job I've ever had.
A) Fix your environment
Your grandfather’s first orange farm failed.
The soil was good. The seeds were there. All the equipment too. What happened?
It was too cold. Oranges need warm temperatures to grow.
Your grandfather had the skills to grow oranges but there was no chance they were growing in a cold climate.
When he moved to a warmer city, he started another orange farm.
12-months later, your grandfather was serving the best orange juice in town.
Studying is like growing oranges.
You could have a laptop, an internet connection, the best books and still not be motivated to study.
Because your environment is off.
Your room is filled with distractions.
You try to study with friends but they aren’t as dedicated as you.
Whatsapp goes off every 7-minutes.
What can you do?
Clean your room. Find a different study group. Friends are great when it comes to friend time but study time is study time. Put your phone in a drawer for an hour.
Fix your environment and let the knowledge juices flow.
B) Set the system up so you always win
Problem 13 has you stumped. You’re stuck.
You wanted to get it done yesterday but couldn’t.
Now it’s time to study but you know how hard you worked yesterday and got nowhere.
You’re putting it off.
You know you should be doing it.
But you’re putting it off.
It’s a cycle.
The pile of books stares at you. Problem 13.
You set a timer. 25-minutes.
You know you might not solve the problem but you can sit down for 25-minutes and try.
4-minutes in, it’s hell. Burning hell. But you keep going.
24-minutes in and you don’t want to stop.
The timer goes off and you set another. And then another. After 3 sessions, you solve the problem.
You can't always control whether you make progress with study. But you can control how much time you spend on something.
Can control: four 25-minute sessions per day.
Can't control: finishing every task you start every day.
Set the system up so you always win.
C) Sometimes do nothing
I did the Coursera Learning How to Learn course the other day.
One of the main topics was focused versus diffused thinking.
Focused thinking happens when you're doing a single task.
Diffused thinking happens when you're not thinking about anything in particular.
The best learning happens at the crossover of these two.
It's why you have some of your best thoughts in the shower. Because there's nothing else happening.
When you let diffused thinking takeover, it gives your brain space to tie together all of the things it absorbed during focused thinking.
The catch is, for it to work properly, you need time in both.
If you've set the system up so you do four 25-minute sessions of focused work, go for a walk after. Have a nap. Sit and think about what you've learned.
The world could do with more of nothing.
D) Embrace the suck
You learn one thing and forget it the next day.
Then another and forget it.
You spend the whole weekend studying, go to work on Monday and no one knows.
Then after a year of studying something you realise how much more there is to still learn.
When will it end?
It doesn't. It's always day one.
Embrace the suck.
E) The 3-year-old principle
I was at the park the other day.
There was a young boy running around having the time of his life.
Up the slide, down the slide, in the tree, out of the tree, in the dirt, out of the dirt, up the hill, down the hill.
He was laughing and jumping then laughing again.
His mum came over to pick him up.
"Come on, Charlie, we've got to go."
He kept laughing as she carried him away, waving his blue plastic shovel.
What is it that fascinated him?
He was playing. He was having fun. The whole world was new.
Our culture has a strict divide between work and play.
Study is seen as work.
You're supposed to study to get more work. You're supposed to work to earn money. The money buys you leisure time. Then and only then can you be like Charlie and run around laughing.
If you have it in your head study is work, it will be hell.
But suppose, you have the idea about it that studying is the process of going through one topic and then to the next.
Connecting different things like a game.
The same feeling about it as you might have as if you were Charlie going down the slide.
You learn one thing, you use it to learn something else, you get stuck, you get over it, you learn another thing. And you make a dance out of it.
Do this and you'll finish a study session with more energy than you started.
This is the 3-year-old principle. Seeing everything as play.
That's enough for now.
That's a bonus.
Poor sleep means poor studying.
Don't trade sleep for more study time. Do the opposite.