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Naresh Jain's Random Thoughts on Software Development and Adventure Sports
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Like with Exercising, with Learning also, we Procrastinate. But why?

I always knew and believed that I need to exercise and stay in shape to be effective at work. But for few years other burning issues always forced me away from exercising. I kept procrastinating!

Gradually, inch-by-inch, year after year, I found myself becoming a potato. It got to a point where it felt like there was no going back.

Unfortunately many professionals (including myself) do the exact same thing when it comes to Learning and staying up-to-date (keeping our skills in shape.)

We all know the importance of learning, yet we always find reasons not to invest right now.

But why?

If you Google for “avoid procrastination”, you’ll find tons of techniques to help you avoid procrastination. But I don’t know a single person who does not suffer from this.

Luckily for me, from the last 3 years, I’ve really been exercising every day (almost everyday.) On a given day, if I don’t, I feel really crappy.

So far I’ve not seen a similar behavior when it comes to Learning.

So what made me change my attitude towards exercising but not learning?

  • Most important thing, with exercising, both the outcome and output is easy to measure/judge.
    • There are some very easy measurements that can quickly show you the difference between being in-shape or not.
    • Did I workout for 30 mins everyday and is my weight stable? (Output)
    • Do I feel energized and fresh the whole day? (Outcome) (I can easily judge this.)
    • But with learning, how do I measure the outcome? Its a lot more vague and much more long term.
  • Few things changed, I was in a company of people (at work, back home, amongst friends), who were all very conscious about staying in shape. Being surrounded by right people, who felt much better after staying in shape, reinforced my thinking and encouraged me to take the first step. Unfortunately its hard to find similar environment when it comes to learning.
  • I was able to set some simple targets (run for 30 mins every day) and measure if I met the targets or not. If I did not meet those targets, the results were quite obviously immediately. Unfortunately when it comes to Learning I’m not able to find a simple model like this, esp. results being immediately obvious.
  • Personally for me, exercising, which involves mostly physical work, is relatively easy even when I’m tired or feeling lazy. But its hard to learn under such conditions because learning requires high cognitive processing.
  • There are many options for exercising, but I was able to quickly decide on running everyday as its the simplest thing I could do anywhere and still get a good workout. But when in comes to learning, we have so many options and its intimidating to even get started.
  • Exercising usually is fun. Its enjoyable. There is an immediate positive feedback cycle. With learning that’s not always the case. Many times its frustrating.

When it comes to learning, I’ve tried to set various targets like:

  • Everyday for 30 mins, either read a book or blogs or twitter or practice solving some design problems.
    • Problem is, even after doing this, I’m not sure if I’m really benefiting or not. May be in the long run, but not now.
  • Write a blog post every other day. Hoping that, to write a meaningful blog post, I would go read something at least to clarify my thinking.
    • Problem is, I continue to write crap without reading much and I don’t write that regularly either.

What have you tried to keep up with your learning?

P.S: I learn a lot at my work, but its primarily driven by the need at hand. Which is good. But the broader learning and staying up-to-date with things is equally important and that’s what I’m talking about.

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