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A Routine of Learning

Date: 12/11/2020

Time to Read: 2 minutes

My morning routine rules king in my life. I almost always start my day early with a couple of hours dedicated to learning or coding. These early hours tend to be my favorite hours of the day for the simple reason that they are for me and no one else. I can spend this time however I feel like it. The variations in my routine are a testament to this. It has featured everything from mediation to reviewing avalanche bulletins to running to finances. I am constantly refactoring my routine, but the common thread is learning.

It does not sound like much, but just taking an hour a morning can add up quickly. I completed a tech bootcamp while working full time primarily by taking an hour each morning to complete course work. While it would have been way quicker to just do the bootcamp full time, my morning routine allowed me to complete the program while working full time and rarely having to do coursework on the weekends.

Exponential Learning

The benefits of a routine of learning are similar to compound interest. If you are new to something (we will use code as an example), the learning process will likely be slow and frustrating at the start. As your skill set grows over time though, you will likely find that the process of learning is easier and that you are learning faster. That hour of time becomes more productive and builds upon the previous hours of learning. You now feel confident enough to start developing your own side project. Initially it is slow going too, but as you continue to code each morning (learning), your velocity picks up. You find that you can now occasionally complete full features during your dedicated hour. Your routine is not only allowing you to become a better developer, it is also making you better at learning!

Learning Systems and Habits

There is a caveat though, just taking an hour a day to learn, does not guarantee that you will learn. I will not cover it in this post, but the systems and habits you create for yourself, will ultimately determine how beneficial your Routine of Learning is. Strong systems and habits will lead to the compounding effect I described above. Shawn Wang (aka swyx) puts together an incredibly accessible mental model for learning called Big L Notation. The post is also filled with great links for building up systems and habits.

Final Thoughts

I personally prefer putting aside time for learning in the morning as it is when I am the most productive. The morning hours also feel like the easiest hours to give up. If I was not taking this time to learn, I would probably just be sleeping in or scrolling through Instagram on my phone.

Admittedly, the constant changes to the contents of my routine of learning, can be a bit jarring. I think I could benefit from taking a more sound systematic approach and develop something like learning blocks (maybe two week periods?) where I only focus on that one thing. Lastly, there are two downsides to practicing my routine of learning in the morning. The first is that it can be difficult to shift gears from learning (me time) to the workday (company time). If I am really into what I am learning or coding, it can be hard to force myself to stop. The second downside is mental exhaustion. If I am working on or learning something that is very mentally taxing, I will sometimes find that my brain is shot by the time I am starting my workday.

All in all though, the benefits can far exceed these downsides. While a routine of learning is hardly a novel ideal, I wanted to share my own experiences.

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