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How to learn effectively

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First, what I want to learn and why

I pick up skills quickly when I need them – only to forget them just as quickly. I think this is due to my impatient, surface-level dabbling in most topics. The learning → forgetting → re-learning cycle is wasteful and will be rectified by adopting a focused, systematic and long-term approach to mastering my desired skills.

1. Health and Nutrition

My health has been neglected for too long. Despite my night owl chronotype, I’m up early and sleep deprived most days. I spend long hours hunched in front of a screen only taking breaks to forage for snacks. As youth’s metabolism slips away, I find myself overweight, out-of-shape, collecting ailments and destined for an unhealthy middle age. This has to change. To be effective in other areas of my life, I need to be operating from a strong and healthy foundation.

The topics I’ll be covering are:

  • Sleep – I know it’s important and I know I’m not getting enough.

  • Nutrition & diet – my diet is terrible and I can’t ‘cook’ anything more sophisticated than pasta.

  • Calisthenics – I need to improve my strength, mobility and posture.

  • Cycling – aerobic fitness, to compliment my strength training.

  • Meditation – to help build focus and mental resilience.

  • Routines – building habits to support my health goals.

Anticipated timeline: 2 months (Feb 2023) to get a handle on the basics and 2+ years (~2025) to master.

2. Visual Design

My creative skills have stalled in recent years. To become a well-rounded creative, I need to widen my skillset and deepen my technical and theoretical knowledge.

To do this, I’ll focus on:

  • Design theory – understanding why certain design choices work.

  • Typography – a crucial element of design that I’ve neglected.

  • User experience – revisiting the theory to identify gaps in my knowledge.

  • Figma – to improve my work flows, efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Blender – because 3D and animation is magical.

  • Drawing, sketching & digital painting – useful in so many creative endeavours.

  • Data visualisation – because I work with a lot of data these days.

  • Vector illustration – a skill that has unnecessarily eluded me for years.

  • Photo editing & compositing – I used to be good at this. Not anymore.

  • Photography – the quality of my photography is more down to luck than skill.

  • Video & editing – the perfect storytelling medium for the Internet.

Anticipated timeline: 3+ years (~2026)

3. Software Development

This was the career path I started out on 20 years ago, but the universe had other plans for me. Still, I’ve never lost the desire to become a decent software developer. There is something magical about being able to bring an idea to fruition.

It’s going to be a long, hard journey covering:

  • Computer Science – to get the foundations in place.

  • DevOps – so that I can set up secure development and production environments. 

  • Git – Version control.

  • Front-end (HTML, CSS & JS) – doing my UI designs justice.

  • Back-end (PHP & Laravel) – this is what I’m familiar with.

  • Database design & MySQL – kinda crucial in dynamic web apps today.

  • APIs – so that I can integrate external services and write my own APIs

  • Regular expressions – confused the hell out of me previously.

Anticipated timeline: 12 months (2024) to reach a suitably proficient level. 5 – 10 additional years (~2030) to master the discipline.

4. Personal Organisation & Environmental Design

Being well organised makes life better in so many ways. I want to codify the process of organising my physical space, digital space, time and personal/work commitments. By deliberately organising myself and my environment, I aim to accelerate my learning and productivity as well as improve my effectiveness and clarity of thought.

I shall be exploring:

  • Physical organisation – how to arrange, organise and optimise my physical spaces.

  • Digital organisation – how to organise, optimise and secure my digital files & data.

  • Time management – how I plan and manage my time.

  • Routines – the daily structure I put in place to support my organisation and time management.

  • Automation – technology I can use to automate certain tasks.

Anticipated timeline: 3 months (Mar 2023).

5. Business and Finance

My MO in business is terribly simplistic and comprises 3 principles: Total Revenue must exceed Total Expenditure, deliver exceptional quality and look after my employees. This approach has always served me well, but I’m painfully aware that I’m nowhere close to reaching my potential in business.

I need to focus in the following areas:

  • Writing – writing well is a rare superpower in today’s world.

  • Speaking – goes hand in hand with writing well.

  • Finance, accounting & investment – to confidently assess and analyse the state of companies.

  • Economics & politics – understanding how these forces affect the world.

  • Sales & marketing – when companies get this right, they can take off.

  • Strategy planning & execution – I need to get better at executing strategy.

Anticipated timeline: 2 – 3 years (~2026).

6. Music

After years of unstructured ‘practise’, I can play a handful of open chords and few partial riffs on guitar – a shameful result. I want to master the guitar purely for the satisfaction and enjoyment of playing music.

  • Music theory – if I’m going to learn the instrument properly, I want to understand the theory behind it.

  • Guitar – so that I can play a repertoire of songs to a decent standard.

Anticipated timeline: 10+ years (~2033) to get to a decent level.

7. Making

With all the time spent in front of a computer, there’s something rewarding about making physical things with your hands.

  • 3D modelling (SketchUp) – modelling upfront saves time later in a project.

  • 3D printing – custom printing your own project components is magical.

  • Woodworking – with a focus on speed, accuracy and detailed craftsmanship.

  • Electronics & arduino – excelled at this in school – all since forgotten.

  • Mechanical engineering – just enough to take my maker projects to the next level.

Anticipated timeline: 5+ years (~2028)