Time to Learn – 5 ideas to learn new things in the new year



Aside from being busy with year-end projects, I’m making time to lay out goals for 2012. And I do have all sorts of goals, so I am meticulously laying out steps and milestones for achievement. Its easy for me to come up with things I want to get done and achieve. I have financial goals, career goals, and more personal goals as well. I plan to write more on these  in the next few weeks, but today I’m focusing on perhaps the most important goals  – improving my skills.


This year I have 5 main areas in which I want to study and improve . They are, General Drawing skills  (this is never-ending), Digital Coloring, the level one Japanese Language Proficiency test, improving my business skills, and gaining ability in marketing and promotion.


I like making a list of what I want to focus on , because I know at some point I will start thinking about how cool it would be to learn Tagalog, fly-fishing, encaustic painting, or what have you. By having a list I will be able to catch myself. It will be on the wall in front of me, and I will look up and remember that these are things that have true value for me, and I will know I need to re-focus.


Aside from this list, I am also assembling a basic outline of how I will work them into my day. My notes are pretty detailed, but the following are 5 key points to ensuring my success.


1. Daily not Deluge

Or, don’t cram (which you may have heard before).

You can get more out of studying 10 or 15 minutes every day then you can from studying a few hours on one day.  This is somethingI believe in strongly and  have learned over my years of studying Japanese. I know many folks who try to cram several hours of studying into a single weekend afternoon. While I can’t say this is totally ineffective, I don’t think it gives you the most bang for your buck, especially when you are trying to learn something with a lot of repeated information – like a language.


Breaking things up into manageable bits you can slide into your life creates a better learning atmosphere. First, you have more chances to remember a piece of information, and second, you’re building habits that makes the activity a part of your life.


2. Measure everything


I use to write goals like: “Get better at drawing.” While this catches the gist of my outcome, it doesn’t help me do anything, and it doesn’t help me see improvement.


This year I’m setting clear tasks and milestones. Like, Draw 3,000 hands (cause I seriously want to raise my hand-drawing game) and complete 100 coloring practice pages. I want to be able to look at a chart and see that I am achieving a goal, on the path, or failing miserably. And yes, I am making charts. You just wait, I’ll show these charts eventually, and you will be totally weirded out by me…


3. Set the game up to win


Here is the thing, I don’t want to fail at any of my goals. I want to succeed and I want to improve. Part of that is having clear measurable tasks to complete, but another is being realistic about them with the available time. I’m trying to write out goals that are totally achievable like the 3,000 hands listed above. That might sound a bit steep at first, but  I know I can draw a few dozen hands with an hour or two. While its a challenge, its totally do-able. And that is key.


In the same sense, I’ve limited my learning goals to these 5 areas, because previously I have flooded myself with way too many things. So my focus is on keeping it simple, challenging and totally acheiveable.


4. Grout Your time


This is big for me, at my day job I tend to have bursts in which I am really busy, and then I have these 5 or 10 minute lulls in which I am not doing anything. Its time when we wait for the next project to get in the pipeline.


This time gives me choices. I could of course wonder off onto the web, catch up on blogs, or any other odd thing. Or, I could use the time like grout. And by that I mean, I could use up this time between projects to practice my skills. 5 minutes here, I will do a quick sketch. 10 minutes there, I study a few vocabulary words. These little bites of time are perfect for practice. I try to make it easy on myself, I have  software set to quiz me at the click of a mouse, and I have a folder of images I to draw sitting right on my desktop with pencil and paper at hand. Instantly and easily accessible.


5.  Achieve and Reward


Lastly, I am creating a few rewards for myself. This is most difficult, because I tend to see what isn’t done rather than is done. It’s easy for me to say , “Well, I drew for an hour today, but I didn’t do any work on those 500 paintings I want to get done.” In short, I tend to undercut my achievements by focusing on what I still want to accomplish. This year I am trying to set up a system which will allow me to reward myself for all those things I do actually get done.


For me, this is a way to shift my whole focus to acknowledging all the things I have done. Its something that I am bad at and want to improve. So small rewards are in order. Little gifts for myself – new books and time to read them, nice food items to share with friends. Nothing extravagant, just creating ways to celebrate and record .




Okay, these are my ideas thus far. There is of course tons to say on goal-setting, so if you have any other or better ideas, I would love to hear them below.