September Challenge: One hour of learning every day

Learning to Write by Otto Duecker
At the end of 2020, I've decided to make 2021 a challenging year. I have committed to doing 12 monthly challenges, one for each month. You can see the list of all the challenges here. Below is a summary of the September challenge.

What was the challenge?

Challenge: One hour of learning every day.
Why: When life gets busy, learning suffers. Unless you specifically make time for it. I want to never stop learning in my life, so I'm making time for it.

For the challenge, I have decided to learn web3. I've been learning it previously in a less structured way, and it seemed an excellent opportunity to learn more, better, faster.

How well did it go?

Challenge completion rate: 100% (30 out of 30)

How hard was it?

At the end of each day, I recorded if I had completed the challenge for the day. I also rated how much effort it took on a scale of 1 to 10. While it's subjective, it gives an idea of how hard it was to complete the challenge.

Average effort score: 6.23
Lowest effort score for the month: 10 (3 times)
Highest effort score for the month: 3 (4 times)

What did I learn from it?

The summary could be very short: "I loved it!"

I loved it so much that I've never stopped this challenge. It's been 230+ days since I started, and I have not missed a day. It has become an integral part of my life, and I intend to keep it that way.

Since I've already had not 30 but 230 days to optimize the process, I believe it is now a well-oiled, efficient machine. In the first 30 days, there were three instances of 10 on the effort scale. Without exception, all of those instances were when I left the learning for last. Sometimes, I had to start learning at 3 am, 4 am, or even 5 am. It's not easy to be focused at such an hour. Fighting with fatigue, sleepiness and brain fog = effort 10.

I now never leave learning for last. I do it first thing in the morning. Or almost first, if there's something urgent. Once I'm done with it, whatever happens next, I have at least one hour of learning for the day. If I have more time later in the day, I may learn more, but I don't have to worry that I'll need to spend an hour late into the night or even morning.

What's another reason for not stopping? Remember all the quotes similar to: "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the short term and underestimate the change that will occur in the long term."? That's all true. I often felt frustrated at the end of sessions because I felt that I made very little progress, or even none at all, for example, when fighting with a bug for a full hour and not being able to fix it. But whenever I looked back and tried to estimate how much I did in a week, a month, or two—I was always amazed. And all this is on top of all my other work and responsibilities! It's a great, motivating feeling, and it only gets stronger with time and with a growing body of work.

Pros

  • Building a habit. One hour a day is a lot. Learning to fit it into your lifestyle, on top of everything else, will require a strong habit. This in itself is an invaluable asset. All other habits will become easier or more effective.
  • Compounding effect. "The eighth wonder of the world is compound interest." Even if you start at zero, with meaningful time and effort (e.g., one hour per day), the knowledge and skill will start growing and compounding to a level you wouldn't imagine possible sooner than you'd ever estimate.
  • Potentially life-changing. In adult life, learning is rare. Most of the learning is usually done at school, in college, in the first couple of years at work. After that, people typically settle into comfortable cruising. If you choose the right subject and are consistent over a long time, you'll be in the top 1% in the world in this area. Talk about life-changing potential.

Cons

  • Time. An hour a day is a lot. An hour on top of work Monday-Friday seems almost too hard to fit in. Then again, an hour on Saturday and Sunday, when you usually chill or spend time with the family, could be even trickier. It's also so easy to skip a day: too tired, an emergency came up, visiting parents, sick, a myriad other reasons. Don't. Do it sloppy, but do it. With one day skipped, you allow yourself to start negotiating and weighing what is enough to skip a day and what isn't. And if you ever miss two in a row, you might as well start from the beginning because you are more likely never to do it again than to continue.
  • Trade-offs. How much is an hour of learning worth? Is it worth waking up earlier? Going to sleep later? Cutting short a meeting with friends? Not watching a movie? Not reading a book? It's hard. But potentially life-changing habits don't come easy.

Will I keep doing it?

I will. I am. And I hope I will never stop. I may change the subject of learning if/when I feel that I've hit diminishing returns with learning web3, but I want to keep learning indefinitely. And I'm still very far from feeling that the returns are diminishing—quite the opposite.

What's the next month's challenge?

Challenge: 7-minute daily hanging (not seven consecutive minutes, but seven minutes total in a day).
Why: I've found this challenge somewhere, and I immediately liked it. It's crazy enough and, at the same time, has enough health benefits (shoulders, grip strength, spine decompression, joints, ligaments), making it a perfect candidate for a monthly challenge.

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