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How to Deconstruct Any Skill You Want to Learn Faster

How to Deconstruct Any Skill You Want to Learn Faster

“One skill you want to master in this day and age we live in, if you want to have an extraordinary life, is the ability to learn rapidly.” — Anthony Robbins

The first step to learning any skill faster requires deconstructing the skill we want to learn. Deconstruction means taking something that is very large or complex and breaking it down into smaller pieces. Most, if not all, of the skills we want to learn are just bundles of smaller sub-skills that occur in combinations simultaneously.

By breaking these sub-skills down to their minimal components, you can figure out exactly what you need to learn, which sub-skills are important, and therefore which you should learn first.

Tim Ferriss shares his learning framework, called DiSSS:

  1. Deconstruction: What are the minimal learnable units I should be starting with?
  2. Selection: Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?
  3. Sequencing: In what order should I learn the blocks?
  4. Stakes: How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?

We’re going to refer to DiSSS a few times throughout this sequence.

So, how do we deconstruct a skill that we want to learn faster?

1. Have a goal

Knowing your end-goal is the most critical part to learning anything. It’s what will keep you focused towards a direction, and accountable when things get hard (which they always will).

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For language learning, this could be to reach conversational fluency, with the ability to have a 60-minute conversation with a native speaker.

For learning guitar, it could be to play 5 of your favorite songs for your partner in 90 days.

It’s important to have a bigger purpose to learning that you can refer to when you inevitably lose motivation, as learning for the sake of learning rarely lasts.

When Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, he didn’t wake up every morning to shoot thousands of free throws so that he could make next year’s basketball team. His goal was to become the best player in the world.

2. Break it down to its LEGO blocks

The next step is to do some research online. Look at online forums or research the best language experts, business experts, or experts in whichever skill you want to master.

The goal here is to identify and list all the components involved when learning your skills, no matter how small. Don’t worry about being perfect, as you may not know all the components involved until you start, but list as many as you can before you start.

For example, if you want to become a powerful keynote speaker, it could be learning:

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  1. Body language: hand gestures, eye contact, walking style and speed
  2. Presentation slides: design, flow of the slides, content
  3. Speaking: volume, speed, content

and so forth…

Laying out all the individual components will allow you to observe the individual sub-skills involved from the outside without feeling overwhelmed. More importantly, you can now see which parts you need to focus your efforts on to reach your goal.

3. Figure out why you may quit

The first few weeks, or even days, of learning a new skill is the hardest. It’s the vulnerable moments when we’re most likely to quit and lose motivation.

You should try avoiding these obstacle points completely, at least for the first five practice sessions. You can do this by breaking down all of the actions involved to acquire the skill. For language learning, it could be searching for the right teacher, having to take the bus to meet them everyday, and needing to do follow-up homework exercises after the lessons.

When we accumulate all of these actions that are required to acquire a skill, it can be pretty daunting. Initially, we should focus on just one of these actions. One easy way to get around this would be to work with a language teacher online, so you can avoid the pain points completely.

Tim Ferris did this when learning to swim. His pain points were difficulty breathing and exhaustion from kicking, so he discovered Total Immersion Swimming, which is shallow water swim training.

We all lose motivation eventually, and it’s better to know how you will deal with it ahead of time than face it straight on without any preparation.

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4. Focus on the 20%

If you haven’t heard of Pareto’s Principle, you should read about it before continuing. The basis is that 20% of your efforts will lead to 80% of your desired outcome.

For language learning, 1200-2000 words is the range of the most common words you need to know in order to be conversationally fluent in any language in the world.

If your goal is to reach conversational fluency, it could be a simple as scheduling a weekly lesson with a language teacher who will provide you with immediate interaction and feedback.

If your goal is to play guitar fluently, it could be memorizing four chords that make up a majority of the popular songs.

If your goal is to become a better cook, you could choose 3 fancy dishes and become a master in learning those dishes.

Whichever sub-skill you decide to focus on, make sure they’re the most impactful ones, and focus all of your energy on them while removing any distractions along the way.

5. Focus on one sub-skill at a time

It may be tempting to jump in and learn multiple sub-skills at a time, especially if the end result is to master one skill. But, just as we get nothing done by multi-tasking when working, we’ll need to avoid multi-skill acquisition to maximize our progress.

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As the founder of Rype, I personally hear from dozens of aspiring language students every week who are attempting to master their Spanish speaking skills and writing when they have yet to learn basic grammar rules.

It’s a common feat that all of us ambitious individuals have within us, but a weakness when it comes to mastering a skill faster.

Get good and master one sub-skill before moving on to the next. As long as you have Pareto’s Principle in mind, you’ll feel productive knowing that you’re focusing on the sub-skills that will result in 80% of your desired outcome.

That’s all it takes to become a learning master.

Remember: the first step is deconstructing your skill, and if you can manage to do this properly, you’re well on your way to becoming a learning expert.

More by this author

Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

11 Things You Should Minimize for a Better Life

11 Things You Should Minimize for a Better Life

Ever heard the statement less is more? Is that a reality in your life or is that an area you are struggling with? Below are 11 different areas you can look at in your life to start to reduce as you focus on building a better life.

Let’s get to it:

Your Stuff

I call it stuff vs possessions. Stuff is what adds clutter in your life. It could be shoes, curios from the cute store in your town or excess appliances you need to throw out but never do. What is it that is overtaking your house that if you moved away you wouldn’t need it at all? Plan a Sunday afternoon throw out session. If throwing out doesn’t sit right then give it away to goodwill.

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Your Acquaintances

How many people are you interacting with throughout the week that don’t leave you feeling good about yourself? Who inspires you? Spend time with those people. Too often we keep people in our lives that we are no longer a fit for. Having too many old acquaintances adds to the excess in your life. If the relationship isn’t a win-win for you both then take a step back and focus on those that do.

Your Goals

Motivated to write out your list of goal for the next month or 3 months? That is awesome. Just a few works of caution. Don’t write down too many. Often people write down over ten goals. The brain can only remember so much and the reality is you won’t get to them all. I suggest you look at your goals with the mindset of single digits. No more than ten, but ideally less than five. Keep the list focused and realistic.

Your Commitments

A new favorite buzz saying in the self-help world is “No is the new Yes”. Take a moment to think about that saying. If you started saying no more how would your week and life look? Would you have more time to commit to the important goals and people in your life? Start to practice saying No when a request comes your way that you don’t want to do. If that feels too harsh try responding with these words “Let me get back to you”. Go away and come back with a no when you are in stronger mindset to say that.

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Your Multitasking

I am giving you permission to stop multitasking. We used to be told that multitasking was a good practice. We look so busy and aren’t we getting a lot done? In fact, no. Multitasking isn’t possible with the way our brain is wired. We need to focus on one key thing and keep our attention on that item until it is complete.

Your Newsfeed

I consider all the information from the Internet that is being feed into our smartphone, laptop and brain as “the newsfeed.” It doesn’t add to having more knowledge, it adds to information overload. Build time in your day or week when you are completely offline. I recommend turning your wireless off or setting your smart phone to airplane mode.

Your Cards

Open up your wallet and take a look inside. What is in it? For most of us it is more than one store, charge or loyalty card. Too many cards add to extra spending, bills and lack of clarity of where our money goes. Look at what cards you truly need and use. Get rid of the rest (scissors work!).

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Your Mail

Both the old style (postal) and your email inbox are areas to minimize. Look at ways to get off catalogs or reduce the magazine subscriptions as you never read all of them anyway. Figure out what mail, e.g. bank statements, can be changed to digital mail only. Try the same with your inbox. Sites like unroll.me can tell you how many email newsletters you are subscribed to and you can take your name off the list that you know longer need.

Your Sitting Time

Too much time in front of the screen is not good for the posture and health of your body. Try setting a timer so every 50 minutes you get up and stretch or go for a five minute walk. We don’t realize how bad our posture is when we sit for long periods of time. The studies on sitting disease are what led to standing and walking desks to be invented. If your office doesn’t have that get into a regular habit to stand and walk often in your day.

Too much time by yourself can led the mind to wander. When the mind wanders it will often return with negative thoughts and beliefs. While a walk by yourself and some downtime is rejuvenating take notice if you start to feel un- inspired or a little sad and make sure you aren’t spending too much time in your own company. This is especially important for those of us who work from home. Make sure to have people interaction throughout your day.

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Your Lack of Belief

If you want to make a change or achieve a goal in your life you need to truly, 100 percent believe you can. If you don’t believe in yourself then why should anyone else?

The difference between a successful person and someone struggling can be as simple as a mindset switch to believe that they will succeed.

What areas can you minimize to create more happiness, focus and productivity in your life? Implement just a handful from the list and you will find that the mindset of ‘Less is More’ will be what leads you on the path to a better life!

Featured photo credit: Samantha Gades via unsplash.com

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