Focus and Deep Work : This great article summarizes Cal Newport’s Deep Work lessons as well as teaches how to apply the Pomodoro Technique to level up one’s skills
My current goal setting system
In the past I have tried many ways of keeping track of my goals including writing them down daily, using a mind map, Post It Notes, even trying out index cards and recording them and listening to them while exercising.
I don’t think there is a best system because I think the ideal goal system for each person will have to be built via try, fail, learn, and improve. Also what works today might not be optimal in the future.
My current system is to every day email myself my goals and to dos. To make them stick and to gain more commitment I paraphrase every goal and I also add due dates. I also add easy to dos to feel good and to take steps towards my goals.
I think the paraphrasing is beneficial to me because if I just read the goals I don’t really have to think about them, but if I try to force myself to write them by hand every day that would be too much work and I would quit after a few days. I feel like paraphrasing is a nice balance between commitment, work, and usefulness 🙂
Random Motivational Tips
Here are a few tips that have helped me on my journey
- Remember my purpose and long-term goal(s).
- Forget about my long-term purpose and goal(s). Instead focus on the next step, or even just doing a few seconds of the next step.
- Write, read, and paraphrase my to dos and goals regularly. I currently email myself my goals and to dos every day.
- When I feel overwhelmed thinking that there is too much to learn, that technology moves fast, I remind myself that is a great thing. The opposite is an industry or a job that never changes, which is mind-numbing and boring. Also new technology is constantly being created to solve problems better, faster, more easily (in theory 🙂
- When I watch an educational video and think to myself, “How can she/he possibly know all of this?” I remind myself, “It is great that she/he knows this and is teaching me. I can cut down on the learning curve by learning from this teacher.”
Learning by repetition and paraphrasing
I have been learning material by using a combination of repetition and my variation of The Feynman Technique.
My strategy is to repeat the material in chunks, i.e. section 1, then section 1 and 2, then sections 1 through 3, sections 1 through 4, etc.
I try to paraphrase every sentence. Sometimes it’s I just reverse the sentences, sometimes I change them into a question and answer, and sometimes I just use synonyms for a word or for multiple words in the sentence.
I think this has been working for me because of the sheer number of repetitions, but also because I am actively engaging with the material, and I am jamming the information into my working memory. Furthermore, I am exposing myself to the material in many different ways because I probably paraphrase things slight differently each time.
I think if I get comfortable with the earlier sections, I might start reviewing from the later sections. For instance, if there are 10 sections, I might review section 10, then section 9 through 10, then 8 through 10, etc.
I think I can certain material into long term memory by using flash card software. Also for things that just have to be memorized, I can create pictures, patterns, stories, rhymes, or use memory techniques such as The Link Method.
Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.
Here’s a great article on how setting goals can actually be counterproductive and demotivating: Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.
My personal philosophy is to focus on the process by setting up a system and simply following it. I try to make my system consist of fun and right actions, so that way I can happily achieve towards my goals instead of achieving to be happy. I try to trust the process and see what happens, which lines up nicely with James Clear’s article 🙂
Learning coding with flash cards
I came across these great articles on learning coding by using flashcard software:
- Memorizing a programming language using spaced repetition software
- How to use spaced repetition with Anki to learn to code faster
I also found pre-made flashcards here:
Tools for Faster Learning
Here are a few tools that have helped me consume materials faster
Youtube Playback Speed Control This allows me to watch videos at up to 4x the normal playing speed
Natural Readers and Free Text to Speech Reader These let me copy and paste text so that I can simultaneously read and listen to the text
Spreed This is more for leisure/fictional reading. With this tool, I can copy and paste text, and read it rapidly. It presents the text one word at a time at a single point on the page, so I don’t have to move my eyes at all.
Pomodollars: My Pomodoro Technique Upgrade
I have been using The Pomodoro Technique for almost 2 years now. It has helped me tremendously in being productive and focused.
However, I have only kept track of the number of Pomodori I complete each day. I have never really tracked my Pomodori over the week nor month.
I have modified my tracking by keeping track of the number of Pomodori I complete each month. I keep track of the number of completed Pomodori on a spreadsheet, and I multiply this number by 25. Basically I am tracking my number of focused minutes each month.
But since I need something gimmicky to motivate myself even further, I call these monthly focused minutes Pomodollars 🙂
Mixing It Up Boosts Learning
I recently read this article: The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning.
A few interesting points were made:
Blocking involves practicing one skill at a time before the next (for example, “skill A” before “skill B” and so on, forming the pattern “AAABBBCCC”), in interleaving one mixes, or interleaves, practice on several related skills together (forming for example the pattern “ABCABCABC”).
Overall, the interleaving effect can be strong, stable, and long-lasting.
I am currently learning from Pluralsight courses. I think interleaving works nicely with Pluralsight because the modules are around 30-60 minutes, which can fit into a Pomodoro because I play the videos at 2x speed.
I also feel like I have more fun because I can take several courses at once and finish a module from each course every day. Plus I get the variety of many different subjects, and the repetition when the courses overlap.
Learning to Code: When It Gets Dark
Check out this amazing article which provides the tools and insights to help you climb out the depths of coding despair:
Learning to Code: When It Gets Dark