Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Focus On One Thing at a Time

The internet has opened the whole world to us. Not only is there so much to see, there’s so much to learn too.

Influenced, perhaps, by tales of uber-productive over achievers, many people try to cram as much learning as they can (in a variety of disparate areas) into the limited amount of time that they have.

Take, for example, a friend of mine. For years, he’s wanted to learn both Spanish and Korean. In early 2014, he embarked on twin courses of study: trying to learn both languages simultaneously. The results, to say the least, haven’t been spectacular. Or even marginally good.

In addition to sometimes mixing the two languages, he’s not absorbing enough of either. He has a limited amount of time for listening, studying, practicing, and reading both Spanish and Korean. And his retention is passable (the assessment of his tutors, not me).

The problem is that my friend’s energies are spread too thin. He’s too mentally fatigued with life and work and everything else to learn those languages effectively and successfully.

When he originally decided to simultaneously study both languages, I advised him to focus on one. He brushed me off then. Now, after his semi-disastrous experience, he’s taken my advice and his focusing on Spanish. The result? His gains are noticeable and his abilities with the language are rapidly increasing.

Trying to cram too much disparate information into your brain, quickly or slowly, results in a jumble. It results in a mess. You don’t remember as much as you should. You don’t learn as much as you should or need to.

Instead, focus on one thing. On one area. Do it well. Learn it to the best of your ability. Then, move on when you’ve reached the level that you need to reach.

Doing this maximizes your retention. It keeps your energy up. It keeps your enthusiasm and motivation strong. You won’t get discouraged as easily. You won’t burn out. You’re more like to stay focused, to stay the course than if you try to follow several different threads at once.

What about the other things that you want to learn? They can wait. If you think they can’t, then you either need to reassess your priorities or let some things go. In doing that, you might realize that some of what you thought you needed to learn isn’t as important as you believed it was.

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