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Showing posts from January, 2020

Forming a study habit - What to do when stuck

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With a limited study time per day, I cannot afford to waste it. Here are some techniques I use to be more effective.

Try a different resource
One mistake I make is re-reading a section of a book, over and over, hoping that it will stick. Sometimes it can be the explanation doesn't work for me, particularly with some authors. Other times, it can be the "obvious" bits that the reader is presumed to know while I am desperately checking how much of an idiot I am. Either way, it can be a costly and wasted effort to just revisit some material.

A practice I learned while playing the guitar was to not fixate on the first guitar tab (a less formal version of sheet music) I came across. Some tabs lost the nuances like bending a string here or sliding a finger there, which makes the difference when rocking out to Metallica. I would remedy this, first by playing the song how I think it should be played with the first guitar tab as a guide while making notes on what bits sounded fun…

Forming a study habit - Measurements

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At work, measurements are an important part of my role. I coach my direct reports on their goals and help evaluate their progress. I measure the cycle time of user stories. I try to get the error count to 0 in our production systems.


For my habits, I measure them. I want to know how I am progressing and to keep motivation high.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” - Peter Drucker

HabitBull

I track most of my habits with an app called HabitBull (http://www.habitbull.com/). With HabitBull, I mark off each day as a success or failure, based on my criteria. Success varies for each habit: when I study for at least 30 minutes with no distraction, writing at least 5 words on my blog, and a simple yes or no for going to bed before 11pm.

Habit trackers like these encourage me to keep going. As you can see in my screenshot, 6th of January was a bad day. A disaster with my sleep knocked my whole routine off, and I chose to use my remaining brain cells to struggle through work that da…

Forming a study habit - Study environment

We have spoken about the 'when' to study (see Forming a study habit-Time of day) now comes the equally important question of 'where?'

I feel the most important factor in any study environment is accessibility. I ask myself, "How can I get there?". I am most likely to study in; the kitchen, my bedroom or a tram going to work. You are unlikely to find me in a coffee shop or library, they're just not part of my daily routine.

The best, by far is the kitchen. It has a table and chairs and no TV. There is not a lot that I can be distracted by, and no worry of being so comfortable that I slack off. The kitchen feels a productive environment, producing great meals that power my day. Every day I am in the kitchen, one way or another.

The next best is the morning tram, I get this every Monday to Friday. With my recent experiments, the earlier the tram, the quieter it is. The downside to this option is the lack of table space. This is especially problematic when us…

Forming a study habit - Time of day

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When is a good time to study? When I ask this question to colleagues, the usual response is "When the kids have gone to bed". I count myself lucky as the only children I have are 5 cats, which are fairly independent nowadays.

RescueTime
I use a tool called RescueTime (https://www.rescuetime.com/) which monitors everything I get up to while on my phone and laptop. The value of this tool highlights where I am least productive. Productivity is how I define it, so hanging out on facebook.com or browsing amazon.co.uk isn't the best use of my time.
Let's take a look at a typical work week,

What we can see here is that soon as 5pm comes around, I am distracted. This is the time frame I commute home, a 1-hour window on public transport. Could I slot study into here?
If we break down this overall distracting time, we can see a huge 1-hour 24-minute duration, browsing the web on my phone. Even worse, 20 minutes looking at a blank tab in chrome. That little bit of time, if reco…

Forming a study habit - Pomodoro technique

Hello! I thought I would brain dump some of the things I have tried while self-studying.

I have a (somewhat) ambitious goal to self-study mathematics to a BSc level in Mathematics, before the year 2025 (plucking that objective and timeframe out of thin air).  I am attempting this while working a full-time job as a leader of a software development team.

Today, I won't be talking about goal formation, as clearly, I need to do better at it. However, I will be covering more day to day problems I have found when forming a study habit.

Pomodoro technique For those who don't know, the Pomodoro technique is a focusing hack, whereby you give yourself 25 minutes of uninterrupted, 100% concentration-time, then a 5-minute break. The intuition of this is that Humans have a hard time concentrating after 20 minutes, their attention span breaks down. The importance of this technique lies in these 2 parts,

You apply all your concentration on the task, during the 25 minutes. That means no faceb…