Are you wasting time with your learning? Just in time vs Just in case

Being someone who loves to learn it can be difficult sometimes to prioritise where to put my attention.

For example, right now we’re at a point of time where there are several major shifts happening with technological trends growing in their significance and staying on top of these will not only be advantageous, it quite likely will be a necessity in the years to come.

So the question becomes how do I choose? What gets prioritised to study today vs later vs years down the road?

This is where the ‘just in time’ philosophy famously used in manufacturing, can be used for our own situation.

We do this simply by matching up our learning to the more immediate things we’re facing, not looking beyond a narrow time frame of twelve to eighteen months.

In this timeframe we are more likely to be able to plan and execute on our goals with a higher likelihood of predictability because the application of the information is more immediate in nature.

How do we choose between these different 'just in time’ topics? In mind this is your personal choice.

But as an example, I like to take into considerations like urgency, it’s potential reward, the time it’ll take to get the first points of feedback and perhaps the biggest weight of all the regret I’ll feel if I don’t act on this now.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is ‘just in case’ learning. This isn’t to say this is less important, but it’s just not urgent. It can wait behind things that are more likely to be used within our twelve to eighteen-month timeframe. You could if you were really curious about a 'just in case’s topic, learn about it in your spare time, but that’s up to you. Just not instead of the more important 'just in time’s learning. With that said, let’s take a look at improving your learning process.

Four steps to improve your learning process

  1. Organize it

For keeping my learning exciting and desirable, I’ve found keeping a learning wishlist is helpful. As I come across new ideas and topics I want to delve deeper into, I place the topic title into a list within a Notion page and leave some tags for organisation purposes to allow it to be placed with other similar topics.

But also I try to add some notes such as where I first heard it, why I find it interesting and how it may help me in the future. This allows me to compare topics that are similar when I revisit them again when I’m in the process of selecting a new topic to begin learning about.

2. Schedule it

Once I’ve decided upon a topic I want to commit to I’ll start gathering the contents from the best sources on the topic. This will mostly be books, but I could also use courses or articles.

At this point, I’ll often see common recurring themes. It’s here where I’ll draw up in my own words, my own syllabus of themes I want to explore.

Finally, I make a date with myself to learn. I’ll do this by allocating a little recurring time slot on my Google calendar, adding a location too.

3. Own it

After this is done, then the first real action stage can begin which is diving into the information from those different sources and creating our own notes.

It’s here where I’ll consciously try to put things into my own words and make it my own. I may use my own examples and even add learning aids like abbreviations, doodles for memory association and lists.

Now’s your time to be creative and take ownership of all the information. This is the synthesis stage.

4. Teach it

Once I’ve got an 80% enough feel of the topic I’ll begin trying to teach it to someone.

There’ll always be more to learn but anything that’s not part of the core principles isn’t as important as it’s not as commonly applied.

As for your student, this unlucky soul can be a friend or family member it doesn’t really matter a great deal I’ve found, but what this stage is really useful for is consolidating your own learning and making sure you’ve understood it so well you can explain it very simply.

You can do this by writing, speaking or recording videos it doesn’t really matter just find what makes you feel comfortable and experiment until you find your preferred style. The main point is you are transferring your understanding to someone else.

And there you have it, how to select your next learning topic and then how to go about acquiring the knowledge. Happy learning.

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