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Learning Report #1: 1st Quarter 2018

Welcome to my first quarterly learning report! March is coming to an end, and The Metalearners has been online for 3 months now, which to me seems a really huge achievement. I decided to share with you what I’ve been learning, on a quarterly basis. I believe getting a behind-the-scenes look at how I structure my learning, as well as my failures and successes, can provide you with really valuable insights.

On a personal note, setting up and launching The Metalearners was an incredible thing for me. In early 2017, when I was setting my goals for the year, one of the most important goals I set was to “create something of my own”. In the past, I had started developing my own games numerous times, but always quit due to lack of focus and discipline (and a huge amount of procrastination). Although I moved away from the discipline of game development, close to the end of the year I achieved my goal by creating The Metalearners, something I am quite proud of!

Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the learning report.

Initial goals in January

To provide some context, when 2018 began, I had already created The Metalearners, but I hadn’t yet launched it. During my goal-setting, I set to learn numerous things throughout the next 3 months, and not everything had to do with the blog. I actually tend to plan my learning in 3-month intervals in order to be able to adjust as necessary based on my time and what I want.

So, as the year began, I set to learn mainly 3 things. The first was how to memorize a deck of cards. Instead of giving a (lengthy) description of how I practiced here, you can find a detailed walkthrough along with an exact training schedule in my past posts. Following this schedule, I was able to memorize a whole deck of cards in less than 5 minutes by the end of January. In the next 2 months, due to time constraints I talk about below, I did a weekly practice session in order to retain my current ability.

The second thing was learning how to play the guitar, and the final one was Spanish. I’ll get to the material and the techniques I used in just a second, but first I need to talk about my experience with this blog, in the course of these months.

How I really underestimated the first few months

Setting aside the time it took to create the blog, I thought that producing content and maintenance would be fairly light tasks time-wise. I couldn’t be more wrong.

Setting to publish an article every week and to keep my social media relatively active, I fell into a double “trap”. On the one hand these 2 tasks were not easy in the beginning, at all, and on the other hand, I really underestimated how much more I had to learn about blogging and creating content.

Don’t get me wrong, blogging isn’t the hardest thing in the world. It’s just that the initial figuring out of different tasks, especially when there are so many simultaneously, is a pain in the ass. In the beginning, to get a new article on social media would take me more than an hour. Just 2 months later, I got that process all figured out, and now I need less than 15 minutes for the same, if not more, amount of work.

To name a few of the things I had to figure out, there is the content creation, the basics of email marketing, social media management, google analytics, and more. To figure these out, I primarily used Pat Flynn’s content from the Smart Passive Income blog and podcast. I also listened to various episodes from the Ask Pat podcast, which provided me with actionable advice to put to use on the blog. I also read various articles on the different topics case by case, whenever I needed to, which I found through Google.

MasterMind Group

Another action I have taken to assist me in the process is to join a MasterMind group. Briefly explained, a MasterMind or accountability group is a set of members that share common goals, be it business ones, like in my case, learning ones or anything else. The goal is to share value and knowledge, as well as to encourage each other in each incremental step, leading to exponential results.

There are 4 members in my group, and we meet through Google Hangouts every week, as we are from various parts of the world, namely Greece, India and the U.S. I’ve already gained a lot of value through this process, and I can definitely say it was a good decision to join one. I found the particular group through the Smart Passive Income Facebook Group, which has become my favorite place on Facebook to be. You can find the links to my co-members’ work below:

Priorities

Having to get in control on the new blog and to figure out how to fit it into my schedule along with my freelancing as a web developer and my learning, I had to set priorities. Due to that prioritization, I set some of my learning projects aside for the quarter, but, in return, I got to a really good level, as far as the blog is concerned.

Most of the tasks that took me hours to figure out and used to seem complex have now been chunked into simple tasks. This is also thanks to specific processes I’ve set. For instance, every Tuesday I go out to a coffee shop and write an article, which I do on paper to avoid the distractions that emerge on my laptop.

Spanish and Guitar

Getting back to my initial learning goals for the quarter, I stopped working on both guitar and Spanish mid-February. Until then, I was using Duolingo to learn Spanish, which in my opinion is one of the best ways to get started in a language. Duolingo utilizes a built-in spaced repetition system, and also provided a compelling experience in learning each foreign language’s grammar. I worked on 15-30 minute sessions on Duolingo, approximately 5 days a week, and reached basic conversational level.

As far as the guitar is concerned, I based my learning on an app called Yousician. I fell in love with Yousician because it provides instant feedback on your playing, which is hugely important, without having to use any cables or any other equipment other than your instrument. It also provides a gamified progression experience, which allows you to constantly practice outside of your comfort zone. Both these features of Yousician are of huge importance in practicing deliberately. I also supplemented my practice with a few minutes of playing and switching through chords.

I practiced 3 times a week for at least 20-30 minutes (the duration of the free daily lesson on Yousician, for more you need the premium version) plus 5-10 minutes practicing chords. In just these few hours of practice, I went from not knowing anything about the guitar to being able to play simple tunes, mainly in the pop genre, which is usually the easiest.

Coding

I also learned a new framework for web development, with the purpose of improving my skills as a freelancer. Without getting into many details, the framework I learned is called Laravel, and it is based on PHP. I studied through a Youtube playlist, on which I utilized the process outlined in detail in the “how to learn from video” article. Early in the quarter, I spent about 2 hours a day on this course, before I finished it.

During these 3 months, I got to learn numerous things about graphic design as well. I got Julia, my girlfriend, to thank for that, as she has recently started learning graphic design, and is more than willing to share with me a lot of the knowledge she gathers in her own learning.

Leisure and Gaming

In early December, I started playing Rocket League. I had stayed away from regular gaming for years, but lately, I felt the need of a consistent diffuse.

Rocket League is a game solely related to mechanical skills and muscle memory, as there are no stats involved. Therefore, when you start playing, you are by definition a bad player. I wanted to quickly improve, so I started utilizing deliberate practice in the game as well.

Throughout January and February, I had an average of a little bit over an hour of daily gameplay, which consisted of 75% of ranked matches and 25% of in-game training packs. In March, with a little less than an hour of average daily gameplay, I increased practice percentage to 50%, after I set up a practice progression by watching multiple related Youtube videos. I also keep the replay from almost every match, and I selectively review 3-5 recordings on a weekly basis. According to the global stats from rocketleaguestats.com, I’m currently ranked higher than 60% of the player base, which is pretty good with the amount of practice I’ve put in.

One important thing to note is that, since the beginning of March, I started listening to podcasts during my practice sessions. As the game is all about motor skills and muscle memory, I can utilize my partially unoccupied brain to listen to content and learn more things. Currently, the content I listen to has mostly to do with blogging.

Goals for the 2nd quarter of 2018

As you understand from this learning report, things tend to be much more fluid that we want them to. We often have to readjust our plans, even in the middle of our allocated timeframes.

But, despite the volatility, setting goals is of huge importance, especially in learning. This is why I’m setting goals for the 2nd quarter, as I did for the first. To begin with, I am going to work intensely in Italian for the next 3 months, essentially performing my 1st learning experiment after creating The Metalearners. I am going to learn simultaneously with my girlfriend so that we can practice and improve together. The goal is to be conversationally capable by the end of next quarter.

I also have various things to learn and work on at the blog, like the 3-page cheat sheet I’m working on (I’ll put a link here as soon as it is done). Beyond that, I also need to further improve my coding skills, which I plan to do by taking on challenging projects. Finally, I’ll keep improving in Rocket League (it feels good after all) and whatever else comes up, which will happen, throughout the quarter.

A note on procrastination

As always, my biggest nemesis in this quarter was procrastination. From conversations I’ve had with people, it seems to be the biggest problem for most learners as well.

Personally, in the past I’ve reached a point where I just didn’t get anything done due to procrastination, feeling terrible in the process. Don’t hesitate to utilize multiple techniques at the same time to beat it, and feel free to contact me to work together on beating your procrastination!

Call to Action

As I believe there is value in sharing with you my learning structure and process, I find great value in learning about yours as well. Feel free to share with me how you structure your learning so that I can learn from you and maybe work with you in creating an even better process. Post on the Facebook group, or contact me directly!

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