Why you struggle to acquire new skills?

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” She  was told she needs to improve her business english in order to advance her career,” said my friend  referring to  one of her colleagues during a discussion we had at lunch.

So what is her next action? ” I replied.

” she doesn’t have time. She is too busy with her Kids when she is at  home . I was recently invited to   have dinner with her family. It was so exhausting to help her prepare the dinner. And I can’t even imagine she has to do that almost everyday.”

I nodded and  then continued. “Why can’t she  learn english  at work?”

“We used to listen to english  radio podcast when I was still there . But now, Her new colleagues don’t like this kind of noise”

” So what is her next action? I asked again

Hummm I hear crickets…….She had no clue!

You see, like my  friend’s colleague, many people want to acquire a valuable skill quickly  for their career progress. May be you are a programmer  who has to train for some certifications, may be you are an accountant want to become an expert , may be you are an entrepreneur who aspires to better management, Financial or leadership skills.

You don’t have the luxury to wait months to experience results  but you hear everywhere you should be patient.

Here is  the thing:Building a skill for the short term needs is different from buiding a skill for the long term.

Unfortunately  you quit too early because you are already quite busy and don’t know a proper way to integrate the learning process into their lifestyle . In this article, I will walk you trough a simple and flexible framework you can use for any new skill.

What are the first actions to be taken during the first week to ensure your habit of Learning a new skill sticks in your busy Schedule?

To begin with  you need to avoid few mistakes.

Mistake 1 You schedule one session a day, everyday

That is what the mainstream advice recommends.  However it is not encouraging enough for procrastinators because the progress  expected are too slow.

Remember! procrastination is intent based. That is why you quit, not because it is hard, but because you believe it doesn’t worth it.

Mistake 2: You schedule  big sessions, once , two or three times a week.

” I am going to spend 3 h working on learning my certification ::::”This strategy is appropriate during the automatic phase, but it is by far the worst for the triggering phase.

You are going to put this off because of the hard work involved. When You are just starting, you don’t understand things and you know It is going to sucks. ” Am I going to  realize there are many topics I haven’t discovered yet, that require a deep attention?  How much times would it take me to get trough them?  How am I going to manage the  others projects  at hand so that  they don’t slow down? ” are classical   questions that  will  create  doubts.

Mistake 3: You want to jump into practicing right from the start

If I told you right now, ” tomorrow we are going to run 10 km”. I am sure you would be tired just thinking about it. And you will shift your mind to something else. It is due to the invisible inner resistance to  running.

This inner resistance exisst for any skill you are going to learn. That is why you better take care of it  first before you take action, otherwise you will struggle later.

Mistake 4 ; You don’t have any strategy to ” ground” the skill you want to learn

“Grounding” the skill means that you build up small triggers that  make restarting low brainer even if you have zero motivation, even if you  don’t feel  like doing it.

Most people only prepare for positive scenarios.   They believe that  the momentum will take care of all the obstacles.

Instead, you should prepare for  failure if you are realy serious .  Imagine, if you had a tool that allows you to taking action in  your lower state, you will always take actions in any other cases.

Mistake 5: You set up too many constraints before you can start.  Time and material constraints

Time constraints

For a Non-procrastinator, setting up a specific time  to learn right from the beginning is possible.

For Procrastinators, especialy chronic procratinator it is the best way to increase chances of failure because it adds up more pressure. Not only will you apprehend the time fast approaching , but you will also  start projections about regret and self  criticism.

You should approach  the first steps with a  beginner mindset of high flexibility. eg ” I will to it tomorrow morning “ instead of ” I will do it tomorrow morning at 8h00″. The purpose is to take action while aknowleging you are naturally slow.

Material constraints

” I need to be at home to do this “, ” I need to have all the documents closed to me before I start” ” I don’t have this book, I don’t have that”

All these constraints serve at escuses for not starting taking action. Start with what you have where you are because there is always something you can do: eg: visualizing yourself doing. It doesn’t require any material at all.

Now let us take a look  at the solution : It is all about focusing on the FREQUENCY instead of DURATION.

Here are the sequence:

Step 1: make the tasks come to the surface emotionally

This is the first layer practitioners like to skip because they underestimate its  direct value:

Beware, you will quit immediately if you meet an obstacle because your inner mental resistance to the task is still too big. Take time to diminish it to have good fondations.

It generally require 3 days to 5 days

Step2: start with a minimum frequency of 3 little sessions  a day  ( morning, afternoon, evening)  . Maintain this frequence for 3 consecutive days. Every 3 days, take 1 day rest.

Every habit  has same parameters: Inner resistance, frequency, duration and amplitude. When you are starting anything, there is a learning curve before you experience some kind of result. The most effective path  is to install each parameter one after another. Afterwards you will be able to transition to an automatic rhythm where the strategy to be applied  is different.

This is  important because that garanties  you grows your habit in a continuous way , layer after layer. It makes the process smooth while  producing small enjoyable results in between.

Moreover that increases  its defensiveness  to future unexpected events like: weekend, parties, friend and family visits,  travelling.  You will be able to restart even if you fall off track.

I call this stage: ” planting the seeds on the ground”. You are planting multiple roots for your new habit on the ground of your schedule.

Step 3: build a positive association : learn the same skill at the same places.  Do it before an activity you like or find creative

This sounds ridiculous but it  has tree profound  advantages:

  • Doing something you are not comfortable with just before something you are attracted by is the perfect time frame. It reduces the negative self talk ( and then the mental resistance)  towards the skill you are learning.
  • It makes it easier to plan. You don’t have to put the new skills in your calendar or your To-do list.  I call this “The art of executing  without planning.” This appraoch combines flexibity with accuracy. The baseline is not time but something you already do with ease .
  • It  set up an environment that will serve as a natural reminder and trigger for the habit later.

Example: public speaking

I have to exercise presenting my startup project in front of other people.

It is something hard to do and I am not an expert in public speaking. It involves a lot of practice and rejection on the road.

At the same time I need to perform other tasks to build the company: phone call and follow through project development with scare resources.

How do I proceed to integrate learning this skill into my planning?

Day 1 -3 ( Step 1)

I see youtube video about the topic ideally about start up pitch.
I bought an audio book about startup pitching that I I listen every day

Day 4-7 ( Step 2)

on Day 4   I do a “jam session” of 1 min to 10 min where I answer 1 question related to the pitch: Eg:  what is the problem?

Morning: problem statement
Afternoon : problem statement
Night: problem statement

Day 5 :    I do one  jam session of 1 to 10 min where I answer 1 question related to the pitch: what is the solution?

Morning: how is your solution unique
Afternoon : how is your solution unique
Night: how is your solution unique

Day 6    I do one  jam session of 1 to 10 min where I answer 1 question: what is the market size?

Morning: market size
Afternoon : market size
Night: market size

Day 7 Rest.

I don’t practice but I listen to audio podcast again.

Planning and execution

I like writing articles. So I set up a rule easy to remember and to manage : “I will practice pitching my startup idea  just before writing articles “.  I don’t say I want  will learn at  10H00

Anytime I think about ” writing article” , I immediately shift to “hum, it is a great opportunity to practice presenting”

I then invest a little bit of my time – 1 to 5 minute-  to do so . It can be script writing, taking notes of powerful key words  , organizing my thoughts, mental rehearsal, visualizing myself talking in front of a crowd  etc.

Places : I try to practice at the places where I tend to waste valuable time

Morning:  in the kitchen or in the subway station

Afternoon: at work after lunch

Night: in the living room or in the bathroom.

I challenge you to test this approach with what  you are Learning now.

You can ask whatever question here and receive answer within 24 H.

HEUDOU TCHIHIKOU Aubin

A Master chronic procrastinator who chose to execute on its dreams because of frustration and self-criticism.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi guys, when clicking on the link “You can ask whatever question here and receive answer within 24 H.” I have a “Page not found”. So I can’t contact you for private questions 🙁

  2. thanks for all the good advice and techniques

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