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

Take 30 Minutes Each Day to Learn

A woman studying

Learning is something I think that most of us don’t do enough of. One of the main excuses we come up with is that we don’t have enough time to learn something. Anything.

Far too many people see learning something as a series of marathons. They’re under the impression that unless they can devote one or two or three hours at a time to learning something, the effort isn’t worth it.

That’s the wrong attitude to have. You need to view the act of learning not as a set of marathons but instead as a series of short sprints. Short, daily sprints.

Just about anyone can set aside 30 minutes each day to learn something. Here are some tips that can help you get going.

You Need a Schedule

Let’s assume that you know what you want to learn and why you want to learn it. That’s your starting point. Now you need to figure out when you can devote time to learning.

It needs to be a time when you have few distractions. A time when you can focus on what you’re learning, and nothing else.

That could be 30 minutes at the start of your day. It could be a half hour during lunch. It could be on the commute to and from work. It could be in the evening after the kids are in bed.

Block out that time. Put it in your calendar with a reminder. Make it your time. Make sure that no one disturbs you or distracts you.

You Need a Structure

While you can pick and choose what you want to learn in the same way that you pick and choose items in a buffet, you should aim for some structure. A structure might seem restrictive, but it can help you focus. And focus is what you need when you have limited time to learn each day.

If this is the first time you’ve tried to learn whatever it is you’re learning, begin at the beginning. Learn the basic concepts. Get a foundation. Work through each step, build upon each block.

If, on the other hand, you’re delving into more advanced territory to bolster what you already know, tackle areas that interest you. Focus on areas in which you’re weak.

In either case, break down what you want to learn into smaller chunks. When, for example, doing an online course or using a textbook, break each chapter or lesson into two or three or even four blocks. Then, schedule those blocks.

You Need to Concentrate on the Essentials

You won’t be cramming a lot into 30 minutes. If you think you can, think again.

Try to pack too much into a half hour and you won’t learn or retain much. Instead, as I mentioned focus on smaller chunks. Those chunks should cover the essentials of what you want or need to learn.

Here are a few examples (and, no, these examples aren’t set in stone):

  • Language learning: Work on two or three new phrases or five to 10 new words. And don’t forget to put them into context.
  • Basic coding: Learn how to create an array in the Python scripting language, or how to create a table in HTML.
  • Writing: Work on writing introductions and conclusions.
  • Musical instruments: Start working on a basic chord or how to do a simple drum fill.

Include a little time for practice in those 30 minutes. Better yet, budget a little extra time during the day to practice what you’ve been learning. That’s really the only way to make it stick.

You Need to Schedule Time for Review

This is something that a lot of people seem to forget to do. They want to keep moving forward, but don’t realize that they have to look back sometimes to keep progressing.

As you add new information and skills, you’re likely to forget some of what you’ve learned. Or, at least, you’ll forget some little nuances. Doing a review helps you strengthen and consolidate what you’ve been learning.

Try to set aside at least 30 minutes once a week to go over what you’ve learned that week. Refresh and review the concepts, but don’t forget to practice as well.

Moments Add Up

Setting aside 30 minutes a day for learning doesn’t seem like much. But those moments add up. It will take a bit longer for you to reach your goal, but the knowledge you’re picking up will have more time to settle in your brain. You’ll have a chance to reflect. That’s something you don’t get with intensive marathons.

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