Keep Grinding: Using Mini-Curriculums to Stay Motivated.

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by on July 20, 2014

Self Education quote Isaac Asimov, Hustle, Grinding, Graphic Design

Keep Grinding: Using Mini-Curriculums to Stay Motivated.

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Stay hungry my friends

For me I’m continually pushing my boredom threshold and things are not always exciting. So perhaps for this reason I’m continually learning on the side of my current career trajectory.

Sometimes even if I am extremely stimulated by the work that I’m currently doing, I want to keep learning and expanding my horizons either on work related to my main career path, or somewhere close.

In my experience I find working on ‘mini-curriculum’s’ and setting them up myself helps me push through and target a particular point of interest. I did just recently have a four phase, 2-4 month plan turn into something I realized I couldn’t quite pull off in the time I had set aside for it though, so I’m strongly considering setting future curriculum’s for a months time, and not trying major lengthy ones for the sake of my ability to finish without becoming overwhelmed.

If you were to try doing a ‘mini-curriculum’ I think my suggestion would always be find something within your field that excites you and energizes you and that you want to learn about more deeply.

If you have a career in web design, and you want to learn about UX for instance, start curating articles (here’s a great app that allows you to save articles for later: Pocket) that relate to the subject, ask someone who’s more familiar what book to start with to get into it, and set up some exercises for yourself related to that theme to get the ball rolling.

I’ve found that writing a blog post about the experience can help incentive me to follow through with my plan, as this plays to my natural motivation of wanting to do something so I can tell other people about it (I know, it’s sick) but it’s best to use you’ve got. Use whatever naturally motivates you to help you create a personal incentive scheme to keep you going. I like to write out the curriculum in phases, and as a graphic designer I go into indesign or illustrator and make it look nice so I get excited to look at it, and build value into it that way. Apparantly, I market intentionally to my self.

I want to lay this out in a way that is easy to read and clearly sets my goals and tentative self-deadlines so I can see them

I always feel like it’s best to do these sheets that my later self will reference, as if my later self will need it laid out as clearly and simply as possible. You never know if I’ll be tired, or be looking for an excuse to not do it, so this method helps me minimize any need for excuses and amplify the overall ‘usability’ of my mini-curriculum.

The truth is, that sometimes I need a kick in the butt as far as getting stuff done, and/or a way to get a lot of stuff done at once. Although my Sunday’s are somewhat of a day off for me, a Saturday is not a bad day to get a lot done at once, and perhaps you have something like that for you. If you set your own schedule (i.e. full-time freelance work, or something like that,) you’ll have to set aside time very intentionally. When I was doing full-time freelance work I found that any time was a good time to go crazy with the amount of work I was doing, and hadn’t yet taken the work-life balance thing super seriously.

But alas I’d like to think that is part of growing up. This mini-curriculum idea is not meant to get you working like a dog in the evenings. It should all be set up so that it energizes you and at the same time helps you get better at your primary goal.

Some other things you can try to help support your goal of learning whatever subject you choose.

    1. 1. Interview people in the field that you respect for your article.

      This can be a lot easier than you suppose sometimes. People want to part of stuff, especially stuff that makes them look good, and that can be free publicity for their book or business. Interview them in person or over the phone if it makes sense. There are free programs for both Android and IPhone that can help you record your phone calls (Make sure the other person knows they are being recorded, and how it will be used,) and use the recording to glean useful resources, tips, and quotes from the interview. Be sure to link to their twitter account, book, and/or business if you use content from your conversation and perhaps this can help with your promotion of the hopefully amazing content you produce!

    2. 2. Document your process.

      Especially if during a push to learn new things you’re sketching, or writing, wireframing, or designing, take pictures of the things you’re working on. They don’t have to be pretty, but everybody loves process shots. To clients they help provide context, and support the important awareness that you didn’t just come up with this out of nowhere, you’ve worked hard and did your due diligence where appropriate.

    3. 3. Do it. Whatever it is that you are learning about… Do it. Not once, not twice. Do it three times.

      Do it each phase. Because this is compulsory, and not something that is necessarily being asked of you by any particular client or boss, you can be wrong.. or be basic. We’re all learning and this way you can be a noob and not face any consequences. Whatever the particular thing you are learning there are probably are tons of facets of that could be said about this phase. But I highly suggest getting your hands dirty, documenting the process, and then add it to your repitoire of things you know about.

This kind of attitude will carry you far, and energize your current pursuits. Write your own mini-curriculums, if you’re a designer, design them, and reap the professional rewards of staying energized, constantly learning, and being an overall badass.


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