Lately I've been trying to analyze how long it takes me to learn a new skill. During the process I came across a widely touted theory, highlighted in a 1993 psychology paper and popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. It says that anyone can master a skill with 10,000 hours of practice.
What?! 10,000 hours? That's equivalent to five years of practice. But many of us have learned something that didn't take us close to that long, right? And in fact, other studies have actually proved Malcolm Gladwell's theory wrong.
What we need is the right way and the right approach to learning anything we want to learn. These four techniques that I'll discuss here will help you acquire any skill.
Deconstruct the skill
The first thing to do is to deconstruct the skill you want to learn. Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you are done, and then look into the skill and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces.
Most of the things we think of as skills are actually a big bundle of skills that require us to do a lot of different things. The more you can break apart the skill the more you can decide exactly which parts of the skill will help you get to exactly what you want. Then you can practice those bits first.
If you practice the most important things first, you will be able to improve your performance the fastest.
Learn Enough to Self Correct
Get a few resources on what exactly you want to learn. It could be books, videos or some online courses – but don't use them to procrastinate. You don't need to get 10 books on programming and then say "when I am done with these books on programming I will start practicing." That's procrastination.
And it won't be too funny when, after reading those resources without practicing, you see that you don't actually know anything.
What you need to do instead is learn enough to self correct. Learning becomes better when you know when you have made a mistake so that you can do something different.
This is simply to say, you should learn by doing. You wouldn't say you are learning when you aren't doing anything. The real learning comes when you try to do or practice whatever you are learning. The more you do, the more you learn and the more you discover other things to learn.
Learn by Collaborating
Another way of learning is by collaborating. You learn more when you collaborate with people. By collaborating, you get to learn different ways or steps to complete a problem, and you can solve that problem quickly.
Personally, I really learnt a lot by collaborating with people of like minds and that are advanced in the skill I am learning. It's a good way to learn fast and get to know some techniques you wouldn't find on your own. In the course of collaborating with people, you tend to teach what you know and learn what you don't know.
Collaboration is most effective when you collaborate with people in the same field of the skill you are trying to learn. It also helps to work with people you know are very good in that skill. The more you collaborate, the more you'll know about what you think you know.
It's important to rest when you need a break. It actually makes you more productive than working while you are tired or weak.
Conclusively, with other studies that proved the 10,000 hour rule wrong, I agree with Josh Kaufman's theory.
The first 20 hours you use on a skill makes you good to a reasonable extent - Josh Kaufman
Using the above techniques I have mentioned, along with spending 20 hours practicing a skill, you can get reasonably good. You can also read up on some other tips on learning a new skill here.
I hope you pick up that skill you have always wanted to learn and start mastering it now.