Become Consistent Learner with The Mike Boyd Effect: Procrastinator to Productive

In my first post, I talked about my first inspiration that kick started my journey to productivity. As I become more productive, you become time efficient with your day. The availability of time has lead me to explore new interests. I have since become obsessed in technology, and as a result of the daily consumption of TechCrunch, my free time turned into brainstorming sessions. But having no idea where to find a developer, I decided that I will try to learn how to code myself. Through the quick research I ended up in Codecademy and I start taking their free online course. Their interactive learning made it extremely enjoyable, and I felt that I was progressing fast. I thought in 6 months, I will be creating my own app! Then as soon as I tried to build something from scratch, I was thrown into cluelessness. I thought I was just not born with the brains to code. So as a typical procrastinator, I gave up.

Then similar to my first inspiration, while lost in the algorithm of youtube, I came across Mike Boyd’s channel. The basic format of his youtube video is that he chooses a relatively niche skill he wants to learn (solving a rubik’s cube, learning how to pull a wheelie) and he records the entire process of learning the skill. I recommend you go watch his videos asap. He usually does not watch any tutorials and basically wings it. The videos chronicles his struggles and how he slowly determines what works and what doesn’t. It is weirdly personal experience watching him and once he is able to achieve a goal he set, you can’t help but celebrate with him.

Consistency Wins the Race

From watching his video i came to a sudden realisation. Maybe because the struggles are visualised it easier to understand a seemingly obvious concept. To be good at any any thing, you got to put in the work. What was interesting was that he usually only practices around 30 minute to 40 minutes a day. He breaks down the skill into small chunks, when he was learning how to stack dice,  he started with one dice until he got used to the movement.

This concept of building consistency through using short sessions and setting trackable goals is surprisingly effective for procrastinators. I have applied this concept for my modified pomodoro method. As explained in my previous posts, it had great positive impact in my journey to productivity. Mike Boyd has influence on how I structure learning in general, and I am grateful that he continues to create videos which motivates myself to learn.

The Dip

However even after implementing this to my second go at learning programming, I found myself in stagnation. I was able to reach a early intermediate level, then the learning process became harder and frustrating. This experience is what Seth Godin describe as “The Dip”. In any progression of learning there is a initial stage where learning is fun as you start to improve rapidly and be able to apply these skills in practice. But then you hit this zero rate of progress. You can’t seem grasp the higher level concepts and this dip period is where most leaners get derailed.

Mike Boyd shows a how in the initial stages of learning you can achieve great satisfaction in a relatively short time. But skills that has a steeper learning curve like programming requires prolonged periods of dissatisfaction. I’m am exactly in that period now. I can now build very simple website with html and css, but it is demotivating when you can draw up great UIs in your head, only to be smacked with reality and I fail to built anything close to the vision. The only reason I am still staying with it is because I know that after the dip, enjoyment will return when your skills and higher level practicality aligns. Understanding this process has help me maintain the motivation to learn how to code.

learning-graph

If your in the middle of the dip, or you are like me and has a history of giving up, try to visualise this graph and know that the frustration is building momentum to reach the peaks of mastery. Be patient, you will reach the velocity to exit the dip soon.

Talent vs Hard Work: Mindset Dev

The debate between Talent vs Hard Work can be argued from numerous angles, and everyone has their own opinions. But I my mind this comparison can be seen in terms of singular short term output, and long term aggregate output. And ultimately, hard work is a greater force that increases your chance of you experiencing success.

Talent is Singular, Hard Work is Universal

In terms of purely a short term singular output, talent will always trumps hard work. We all know this feeling where no matter how hard you try, there will be some guy that just does it better. I remember on my maths class in high school there was a guy that could calculate in his head quicker than I could read the equation. We are given different hands in the game of life, and these natural abilities can dictate the probability of immediate success.

However, what defines a person’s achievement that truly has weight is determined through a longer term, multi-output. When talent is recognised from a young age, parents deprives the child of the chance of exploration in other interests. The child is taken to special classes after school, seek scholariships or even drop out to pursue their talent full time. This causes the their talent to become their entire identity. Any attention, praise or success leading to personal value will be attach to the talent.

Meanwhile the hard workers has been slowing moving forward even though they might not have enjoyed seeing their peers progress beyond their field of view. But their minds are sharpened as they grind though the rough experience of struggle. Because of this, hard workers has mental strength that can carry over to any career they choose. They know the feeling of being clueless, yet they tasted progress and development. As a result they acquired crucial skill; consistency, discipline and grit.

The Output

The difference in talent level paves a path that greatly shapes contrasting life experiences. To visualise the effect on success, lets use the talented basketball player vs a untalented hard working basketball player.

The chance of success is differentiated by two factor; relative probability and success subjectivity.

Relative Probability

The chance of the hard worker becoming successful is higher simply because of probability. The talented basketball player puts everything in his life to pursue the career in basketball which is a limited market with extreme levels of competition. Higher you climb the significance of the talent dilutes in correlation. A talented college player is a average player in the NBA. This can be devastating for the individual as you become a shadow in the arena that they were once the hero. And as he has been hyper focused in a singular skill, it is difficult to change careers especially when the skills are niche as Basketball. Moreover, because he has been talented since the beginning, he never had to blindly go into a area that he has no natural talent at. It becomes frustrating to experience embarrassment of inferiority which deters them to step into a completely new field.

Conversely the hard worker may only aspired to play on the college team. It may take him 4 years to get to play in the team. But once graduating, he will have a cognitive skill that will be transferable in any career he chooses. In his pursuit of making the team he tasted the joy of progress and accomplishing a goal that objectively may seem small but subjectively brings great satisfaction. That experience will give him the confidence to pursuing careers that he might not have the skill currently. He knows that as long as he keep at it, he will get better. Therefore, by having more options of careers that he can potentially be successful, and having the ability to adapt to new environments means he will have greater number of opportunities to become successful.

Success Subjectivity

Secondly the definition of success is subjectively different between the individual. For the talented, the more talent you have the higher you set your goals. For the talented his definition of success is playing in the NBA. This is means that anything other than reaching the NBA in his mind a failure. NCAA players have a 1.2% change of getting into the NBA, then their chances of “perceiving” as failure is 98.8%.

The hard worker is conservative in measuring his capability in Basketball He set his goals to represent the college team and with enough hard work there is a high likelihood he will make it. This humble mentality nurtures an important mindset of setting achievable goals. And as his definition of success is much realistic he gets to experience success periodically which drives a positive feedback loop. The type of success that society acknowledges is a built with series of small successes that people will never see. Yet becoming a serial mini achiever is what eventually builds permanent greatness.

To Clarify

I am not saying that hard work is superior, in the end it is not a black and white argument. Obviously the ideal is to have both talent and hard working mentality. What’s important here is that that even your hard work doesn’t take you far in a career, don’t feel that you wasted time. Your experience will equip you to find your passion and success. Do not value yourself in a singular output. Become a serial mini achiever, and you will be surprised how far that ride can take you.

The Tomato Timer: The Pomodoro Method Cures Procratination

Procrastination is usually come from the  overwhelming feeling you get when you see the enormity of the task ahead. Because you so far away from the finish line, you can’t muster up the motivation to start. In numerous occasions, I have left massive school projects stewing right up to the deadline. And many times as the clock ticks down, I gave up and start making some creative excuse on why I couldn’t send the work on time. Then i will I feel like a fraud and a failure. This destructive habit has led me to drop out of university my first time around. I let down my family, my teachers and my relationship. At that time I felt that I was completely useless, and all I would do is day dream a parallel universe where I was successful, rich and respected.

After few more life failures, I was desperate for change. One day looking for any answers, I came across the “pomodoro method”. And it has saved my life from the grip of procrastination.

The pomodoro method is a simple technique where you work for 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break between each session. How it works is that by breaking down a large task into small goals. Because working for 25 minutes isn’t a daunting task, you start working and by doing so it gets the ball rolling by being able to work for multiple sessions. Also it also takes into account that human can only truly focus on a task for no more than 25 minutes at a time.

How I personally use this method is a slightly modified version. The traditional pomodoro session will be four 25 minutes session with 5 minutes breaks in between sessions, and a long 10 minute break at the end. As a procrastinator, committing myself to work for 2 hours was too much, as I was afraid of feeling like a failure if I couldn’t complete the pomodoro session. So rather than committing to a entire session, I only commit to a single, 25 minute session.

For example, if I have a school project due in 2 weeks, I will set a daily goal everyday; “Work on school project for one 25 minute session”. I will set the pomdoro timer and work until the timer is up. Once I complete the 25 minute session, I will set the timer for 5 minute and do something totally unrelated (for me is to watch random Youtube videos). After the break, I will ask to myself, “do I want to do another session?”. If the answer is no, I cross off my daily goal and stop working. If I feel like I can commit another session, I will set my timer and work for another session. Then I repeat this loop until my answer is no.

thomas miller

This worked for me because every time I completed a session I was able to check off my daily goals that I set. That feeling of satisfaction and success breeds consistency. At the beginning, you might be able to do only one session, and that’s ok. The most important thing is that every day you will work for 25 minutes, thats progress. And somedays you will have the motivation to do multiple sessions, but that is not sustainable which can make you feel like your failing again. So only commit yourself for a single session.

Since I started implementing this technique with together with daily task planners , my grades has improved significantly (I’m back in university to get a bachelor degree in Finance), I have learnt how to code a simple website and I have started this blog. Even though I am still a natural procrastinator, I am proud of my slow but consistent progress.

So next time try this method, write down your daily task, set up your pomodoro session and complete a single 25 minutes session. Once you do that cross it out from your list of daily tasks and stop working. Next day, do the same thing until you start getting into the groove of things and start being able to sit through multiple sessions.

Start getting productive 25 minutes at a time.