Learning how to learn

Learning how to learn is perhaps the most important capability in today’s world. However, the irony is that in some ways we have become our own worst enemies by being distracted and not engage in periods of deep learning. I’ve been on a 9 days meditation retreat once and the only thing I find kind of similar to is when I’m trying to solve a problem – I could be programming , debugging or sometimes thinking of abstract ideas.

The things that have personally helped me:

– Turning off noise : I used to be a huge news fan once with google news keeping me informed. However, with time I’ve realised that the world doesn’t stop churning even if I don’t follow news. This includes twitter, facebook ( I still have an account but have logged in very infrequently when I’m very tired ), television and reading best sellers.

– Focus on few things that matter: Health is a big things and that includes all aspects of keeping oneself healthy.

– Create a technology radar: Thoughtworks has a technology radar – it helps to create something similar for the learning process. What technologies I want to become better at ? Add to my portfolio ?

– Make it consistent: Watching energy levels so that I study when my brain is fresh and relaxed. Trying to learn when the mind is tired is not very helpful. Balanced diet , exercise and regular sleep is very important. Further, if I feel my brain getting tired , I shut down and just take a mini nap – it’s very effective to freshen my mind again. We humans have a natural rhythm and try to flow with it. Practice with a goal regularly will make anyone much sharper.

I’ve applied different strategies for different products :

– Find a good video tutorial on youtube / pluralsight : I’m optimistic about future of learning as we’re finally reaching a time in history when sending bits of video has become really affordable . This has created sites like pluralsight to become even more popular and of course youtube has videos over almost anything. I still prefer pluralsight as youtube can be a dangerous terrain – getting the information can be iterative.

– Companies have started with their MOOCs – SAP, 10gen ( MongoDB ) .

– Many conferences / sites publish their own videos: Includes oracle / sap / redhat / google / apple that I have used in past – typically in the developer Techeds , they cover what’s coming and what interesting has been built.

– Books: I don’t buy dead tree technical books anymore ( for the practical reason that I stay in a small apartment and it’s easy to carry kindle) but ebooks from SAP press , Oreilly , Manning Publications , Pactket Pub,InformIT , Apress etc – All have books in ebook formats – except perhaps for some of the old ones in case of SAP Press.

– Official product documentation: This is a joy to read, is most accurate and descriptive but requires more time and typically follows some level of familiarity with the technology.

– RSS Feeds : Once you’re already up to speed ( or comfortable at some level ) you can check blogs as RSS feeds.

When it comes to other areas, especially philosophy I stay away from new books – I find it more interesting to read books that are at least some decades if not centuries old.