Learning New Skills Fast – How to become More Productive

In this WEEK’S CHALLENGE, I’ll outline a strategy for how you and I can become a more productive and effective person. Now I’m just packaging it – It’s all based on the author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss’s best productivity tips. And we are going to learn this skill through the framework outlined in the book THE FIRST 20 HOURS by Josh Kaufman. Skill you say? because YES – it is a skill! Being productive can be learnt, but until we’ve invested some effective practice. 20 hours that is.

Now I’ve set a goal for myself to start some kind of business before the first of October this year. That means that ALL my week challenges strongly must align with taking me there in an effective way. This increased pressure on delivering valuable output, has made super conscious of my inability to get things done. Distracted, unfocused and constantly multitasking – eating, googling random stuff that pops up, YouTube rants. My mobile addiction has seriously started to frighten me. I’ve got the attention span like any other person these days – horrible that is! And I’m sure you’re not far behind.

This is currently what’s hindering me from advancing – and if I want to live that amazing life I dream of, I MUST learn the skill of how to be productive. And you know what, I think the FEAR of letting these dopamine stimulating things go, is a big part of it. I need to face my fears and commit.

SO, if you feel the slightest resemble – join me and commit as well! I can guarantee you’ll be frustrated as shit and wished you’d never signed up for it. BUT, in the end of the week you’ll also be looking back at all the things you’ve accomplished and, above all, have a new solid system that brings your productivity game to a new level!

First off, we need to understand what it is that we are trying to do and get the concepts clear:

“Productivity = Output / Input

Productivity is generally regarded as a measure of outputs divided by inputs. All of the activities that you get done in a day may be considered your output and the time you put into them are your inputs.

Efficiency = Doing things right

Efficiency is a measure of how well you do those things. If you are able to get more outputs from the same inputs, you are said to have increased efficiency.

Effectiveness = Doing the right things

Effectiveness is a measure of doing the “right thing s.” Highly effective individuals and companies act in ways that move their highest priorities forward on a regular basis.” ( source )

Basically, we need a system or a method for identifying the most important things to work on – and then make sure that execute on those things with a high level of efficiency. Increasing the overall output in relation to the time we put into it.

Now in the book `THE FIRST 20 HOURS  Josh Kaufman has structured a 4 step process to learn any skill effectively with high efficiency:

  1. Deconstruct a skill into the smallest possible sub-skills
  2. Learn just enough to practice intelligently and self-correct during practice
  3. Remove physical, mental, and emotional barriers that get in the way of practice
  4. Practice the most important sub-skills (with feedback), for at least twenty hours

So let’s walk through them and apply Tim Ferris productivity tips.

  1. Deconstruct a skill into the smallest possible sub-skills “Deconstructing the skill before you begin also allows you to identify the parts of the skill that aren’t important for beginning practitioners. By eliminating the noncritical sub-skills or techniques early in the process, you’ll be able to invest more of your time and energy mastering the critical sub-skills first.” – Josh Kaufman

There are literally is THOUSANDS of tips and tricks for how to be more productive. But after listening to and watching hundreds of thes, you start to see recurrent themes. And since my huge admiration to Tim Ferriss, I’ve put together his best tips here. Most of them coming from the book the 4-hour work week and his podcast and YouTube channel.

“Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials.

If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.

This presents a very curious phenomenon. There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of one another:

1.) Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time. (80/20)
2.) Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important. (Parkinson’s Law).

The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.”

-Tim Ferrriss, The 4-hour work week

“The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” – Wikipedia

Tim also gave this advice in one of his YouTube videos:

Identifying the important tasks:

  1. Which one of these, if accomplished would make everything else easier or irrelevant?
  2. Which of these, if checked off, would leave me satisfied with my day?
  3. Which of these, if done, creates more time for me next week.

Shorten work time:

Define the outcome and only give yourself a certain time to accomplish it. Work in 25-50 min sessions, (the Pomodoro principle) and use a timer set for 25-50 minutes before taking a short ~5 min break. I’m using the App: strict workflow / Task Timer to keep count and see the accumulated time of my focused work sessions. It works offline too.

Now, this is a habit we want to build and it can be broken down to Que-routine-reward. For the theory of this check out “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.

The que: Starting the timer

The Routine: the focused work

The Reward: This is up to you to design it the best for you! It can be enough to just get up and jump around, feeling proud for the progress. Some may want to treat themselves with something good. For me, I have attributed each minute to a certain monetary value. So for 25 minutes of work, it equals 2,5 SEK. And I’m using that money to pay of a debt to myself on money I’ve lost on stocks. Making that loss worth it! You can also use it like earning up money for treating yourself with something you want to buy. Or watch time for a funny series or YouTube videos – be creative. But acknowledge the power of the habit loop!

  1. Learn just enough to practice intelligently and self-correct during practice  “Learning helps you plan, edit, and correct yourself as you practice. That’s why learning is valuable. The trouble comes when we confuse learning with skill acquisition. If you want to acquire a new skill, you must practice it in context. Learning enhances practice, but it doesn’t replace it. If performance matters, learning alone is never enough.” – Josh Kaufman “Instead of trying to be perfect, focus on practicing as much as you can as quickly as you can, while maintaining ‘good enough’ form.”  – Josh Kaufman

So don’t watch another productivity video – have the faith of only applying this and only this week. Don’t overwhelm yourself with other things. Less is more.

And when it comes to the self-correcting part our timed work session – this is how we define “practice time” in terms of developing this skill. This means we need to be aware of when we’re failing. It’s simple – as soon as we’re not doing what we set out do before starting the work session, we fail. So, to be awake to this, we are simply going to have a piece of paper and an analogue pen and make a mark when we get distracted. Put a pin there, and then continue with your thing. Likewise, if you thought of something you need to do, take a note of it and then get back to your business.

For self-improvement purposes – you can also write the conditions of your work; like time of the day, music, being hungry, tiered, and see how it corelates to your ability to focus. And by that see when you are doing your best work and identify those factors to be able to easier get to this beast mood in coming work sessions – getting to know yourself.

  1. Remove physical, mental, and emotional barriers that get in the way of practice “There are many things that can get in the way of practice, which makes it much more difficult to acquire any skill.” – Josh Kaufman

“Here are three barriers to rapid skill development to consider and eliminate prior to practicing a new skill:

  1. Limited access: If it’s too hard to get started, or it takes too long to get started, you’ll find an excuse not to start. If you want to learn to play the guitar, place your guitar in the middle of the living room with a sheet of music next to it. Doing so will make it easy and effortless to pick up the guitar and start practicing.” *

Use the tools that suits you best, you don’t need a whole lot of aps. A regular watch and a piece of paper might just work the best for you. The principles as super simple – keep it that way if it suits you! For me, I like the gear, makes it more of a game.

  1. Distractions: “Skill development requires your undivided attention while you practice. Practice in areas that you consider boring while you are free from distractions: no television, ringing phones, or incoming e-mails.” *

This is key when it comes to working focused and disciplined. REMOVE ALL DRISTRACTIONS. Don’t have your phone visible. If your work allows it, block internet or certain pagers and any kind of social media (I use AdBlock and Strict Workflow). Food is another huge on for me – can’t eat and focus at the same time. Chose music that makes you focus – I can only do non- vocal. NO PHONE. You know what works for you – or should I say don’t work for you!

  1. “Self-consciousness: The fear of looking incompetent is the largest barrier to skill development. Adjust external expectations and laugh at yourself for the first 20 hours (without losing enthusiasm for learning the skill).” *

You will fail in the beginning. Your multitasking brain is used to being all over the place. But have faith in the process, and think about your why – imagine the impact it would have if you got so much better!

  1. “Practice the most important sub-skills (with feedback), for at least twenty hours “Once you start, you must keep practicing until you hit the twenty-hour mark. If you get stuck, keep pushing: you can’t stop until you reach your target performance level or invest twenty hours. If you’re not willing to invest at least twenty hours up front, choose another skill to acquire. The reason for this is simple: the early parts of the skill acquisition process usually feel harder than they really are. You’re often confused, and you’ll run into unexpected problems and barriers. Instead of giving up when you experience the slightest difficulty, precommitting to twenty hours makes it easier to persist.” – Josh Kaufman

Since I do weekly challenges – This means we’re going to practice this for 20 HOURS in just one week! MAN, that’s a huge commitment. Or is it? I probably work 80-90 hours throughout the weeks, my real job and this YouTube channel put together. So just staying super productive for a fourth of that time really isn’t much to ask for! Quite the opposite really, in theory, we should get more done and free up time to do other things!

So that’s it – that’s the objectives of the week: implement these two principles for a total of 20 hours.

  • Start with asking yourself the three questions in the morning or in the evening to define what’s the most important tasks you need to do during the day. Or when you’re sitting down with a project of yours. Then brake those tasks down to tight deadlines and work in 25-50 minute sessions before taking a short break. Implementing the habit loop – the que, the routine, the habit. And don’t forget to remove all distractions!

So that’s it! I’m going all in on this one, loves when there’s a measurable outcome. 20 ours here I come! And I’m going to get so much done. Commit to me down there in the comments, social responsibility is one the major things that makes us follow through. That’s the reason for me doing these challenges for over two years. I’m committing to you guys EVERY week. It’s power in that.

Thank you for watching, thank you for pursuing a life of freedom – the world needs to be a happier place, and free people for sure makes that happen!



About the author: alenils

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