This article was written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the concepts in the Octalysis Gamification framework created by Yu-kai Chou.
Why Learning Sprints are Useful
Lifelong learning is a marathon, but sprints can be useful along the way. Sprints can shock your body and mind. They will drive you through Core Drive 2: Accomplishment & Development, and several other Core Drives (depending on your sprint’s design).
Depending on where you are in developing a skill, trade, or craft, you can benefit from a sprint in the following ways:
- improving your habits
- leveling up to a more focused work ethic
- learning new things about your daily routine and rhythms
- actually learning the mini-skill, trade, or craft (obvious, but must include!)
- exploring something completely new, just for fun!
Learning sprints are fast-paced, focused, and give you time to reflect more frequently than a long-term goal.
Bite, chew, then see how it feels.
Because of how efficiently sprints use your time, they are a great way to test an approach and see how something fits into your routine without having to dedicate years.
How to choose what to do is a completely different matter. (Which I may or may not be able to help with, but definitely ping me in the comments, because I might be able to!)
I’ll sprinkle in some Gamification Techniques and as always base my Top 8 Learning Sprints on the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis.
Let’s do this.
8. Scott Young’s MIT Challenge
Calculus in 5 days? No problem. Scott Young achieved this (even completing the exam) in his first week of his MIT challenge.
Scott’s course schedule depended heavily on Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity. He wouldn’t finish the 4-year course in 12 months unless he “went to town” on each course.
Notice how Scott used weekly update videos to give himself some accountability to his audience through Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.
I love the idea of documenting progress, because in simply sharing what he’s doing, he will learn through reflections on how to improve for the next week, and also give himself a creative Booster (#31, CD3) going into the next batch of study–he knows what holistic learning techniques he wants to put to practice next.
7. Massive Open Online Courses
What began as an experiment at Stanford years ago led to MOOCs (massive open online courses) growing in mainstream popularity throughout 2014 and 2015.
Massive open online courses in themselves build on the idea that education should be free and a basic human right. Regardless of whether you believe in this, they start from a place of Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.
In building MOOCs into your learning sprint, consider which ones may supplement your learning, or indeed if you intend to tackle an entire MOOC curriculum for depth.
Many MOOCs involved Quest Lists (Game Technique #35) to motivate you through development and accomplishment.
6. The First 20 Hours
If you’re looking for ideas on how to fit your learning sprint into your daily life, we can learn from Josh Kaufman’s personal experience.
(^^^At the end of the video, Josh plays the ukulele. Which is pretty cool.)
Josh really enjoys learning new things, and just after having a baby (his wife had the baby), he carved time to learn 6 new things in 1 year, including windsurfing, Go, and how to play the ukelele.
Josh’s approach helps us learn:
- routines are key
- communication (with relationships)
- 20 hours (depends on what is trying to be learned)
Josh’s technique essentially commits you to about 40 minutes of work for 1 calendar month.
5. Coding Bootcamp
This list of the top 50 coding bootcamps for 2017 is a great place to start. Many incorporate Project-Based Learning (CD3) to build problem-solving and creativity.
Coding bootcamps usually have a curriculum and the benefit of Mentorship (#61, CD5) and a community of peers working on the same work.
The alternative to this might be trying to build something from scratch on your own. Depending on your personality type, this may or may not be right for you.
4. Exploring or solving your own problem
Here’s a video of the result of the exploring a new writing space using neural network AI!
Basically, I followed directions from Robin Sloan, also a sci-fi writer, who is using this program to write dialogue for a quirky character in his book.
I wanted this for fun and to stay up to date on AI implications in fiction, but I also learned:
- (And read through StackExchange)
I’m not a programmer, so this was pretty new to me. But I got it working in under 5 or 6 hours. But hours 2-4 were pretty frustrating, but then I broke through! (Just like Josh Kaufman says above.)
3. Learn a language
500 days may not seem like a sprint, but I just get inspired when I watch this video!
Using any app like Duolingo is a great supplement to a language learning sprint. I’d also recommend speaking with native speakers, or getting a language buddy, or taking a friend to dinner and only speaking the language you are learning. This can serve as a Mini-Quest to level you up fast!
Involving others through social influence can really help. And at the end of the day, language is all about communication. So talk it up!
2. Degreed Pathways
By using Pathways, you get a Head Start on your learning goals and have a simple plan to discover new material, track, and achieve it. All you need to do is figure out what you want to learn. But once you have, you can jump straight in. Super simple and very little roadblocks to getting started.
Once on the site, search their directory or go straight to already-created Pathways for learners that fit your profile. You don’t need to define your Quest List (#35, CD2) because it is already provided!
1. Top Performer (Cal Newport and Scott Young
Cal Newport and Scott Young have thought and written about learning and career for years. Their latest program hones in on specific industries (your choice) and the skillset, mindset, and level-ups required to break in or get ahead.
Then, they help you build a plan to get there. I haven’t taken the course, but having read the case studies, I’m intrigued to hear more. Becoming elite in your industry / skill / job / role definitely plays to epic meaning and calling, while emphasizing empowerment of creativity and feedback is how they’ve built the course.
Why haven’t you started yet?
Jump into your learning sprint and tell me what you’re working on in the comments!
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