How do you track your learning process?
Answer by Valerie Cooper:
Find measurable elements of your learning process and devise a way to track them.
When I have an editing job, for example, it sometimes involves a learning curve and looking up information with which I'm unfamiliar. I keep a spreadsheet where I record how many words are in the manuscript, and I do a couple of hours of the work to see what my speed is. If I know that I'm editing 6,000 words per hour (estimating 300 words per page, with a good writer I can crank through 20 pp./hr), and the manuscript is 60,000 words long, I know I need a minimum of 10 hours to do the work. I can spread that out over the time in which I have to meet the deadline. So if I have two weeks to finish the job, and I'm giving myself a "normal" work week, that's only one hour a day for the mechanical part of the edit. Then I can keep a running list of my questions and spend, say, another hour each day researching them.
I decided to take time off of a wage job and pick up freelance work in order to learn about the internet, which I am convinced is the ultimate publishing venue. In my case, I had a very nebulous goal in mind because I didn't have a framework for how I was going to approach my study. So I have floundered around quite a bit. When I have learned something, I try to find situations to put the knowledge to use immediately so that I get to know it.
You on the other hand seem to have a very specific goal and at least some kind of context for what you're learning. You might put together an outline of the material to be learned that you can revise in case it turns out there's more to learn than you first perceived. You might use an electronic workbook or journal in which you break the material into units that make sense, probably in terms of needing to learn x first before you can understand y, and record the time you spend on each subject. Learning doesn't always happen in a linear manner.
So, if you are concerned about keeping yourself on track, give yourself a trial in which you ingest the material at a comfortable pace and see:
- How much you can take in per hour;
- How many hours you can stand doing it in one session;
- How many sessions in a day you can tolerate.
Be realistic about when your brain is functioning at its best and giving it breaks. Make sure you work in meal times, time with friends and family, and time to sleep and rejuvenate.
Make it fun, by working whatever your sense of fun is into the process.
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