Learning how to Learn

learning May 19, 2023

As silly as it sounds, the ability to learn is not necessarily easy.

We all as engineers put ourselves in a state where we put guilt on ourselves when we stop what we're doing, and learn something because it feels like that's not "work".

"Be passionate and bold. Always keep learning. You stop doing useful things if you don’t learn" Satya Nadella Microsoft CEO

The reality is, learning is everything, we should be perpetual learners in every aspect of work, and life. I'd even go so far as to say we're doing our company's a disservice by NOT taking time to learn!

The big question then is, "how do I learn how to learn?!"

Create systems not goals

I heard Cory House reference a book a few years ago in his keynote at Connect.tech called "How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big" and one idea in that book says that instead of trying to create new goals such as "read x number of books" or "exercise more", we should create systems that enable us to make those goals a reality.

We should approach learning that way! Rather than saying things like, "I want to learn a new language like Rust", or "I want to read 3 new books this year", we should create a system for ourselves that allows us to complete those goals.

For example, use an app such as To Do, Todoist, Apple Reminders, and create yourself a morning checklist that covers a daily few things you want to do.

If you want to learn a new technology, block off time on your calendar daily or weekly in order to spend a bit of time reading a book about it. Take an hour every Friday to stop what you're doing, read a book, watch some content, etc.

Learning Resources

There are so many resources out there for developers to learn from, but here are a few of my favorite

Start a blog

Wait wait? A blog? YES! One of the absolute BEST ways to learn is simply to write down things down. I love the quote, "Writing is thinking". It's so true, often times taking the time to write down something that you've been learning and thinking about will offer clarity and understanding that you didn't expect. It doesn't have to be a complicated blog setup, it's 2023, use Wordpress, Github Pages, Azure Static Webapps, Notepad, just something to get your mind working.

Social Media

This one sometimes makes people giggle, but the reality of it is, Twitter is still a massive source of great free content. Social media, in spite of its obvious pitfalls, is still a great place to go to consume new ideas, and occasionally when the mood strikes, put your own new learnings and ideas out there.

Use Tweetdeck to create a List of top news sites that cover your interests, and add a column for it.

You can even follow certain hashtags if you want, and join them with an OR.

Online courses

Occasionally a company you work for will offer a free education site like Pluralsight, Frontend Masters, Egghead.io, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning and more, but even if they don't offer it to you as a free resource, consider joining one of them anyways! Most of them only cost roughly $30/month, and  are full of great content. Here is where you could leverage that hour block of time you schedule on Friday's to go watch some courses on that new language, or learn more about advanced React Hooks usage. Whatever that thing is, take the time to go watch some content on it.

News Sites and Newsletters

Dev.to is one of the best ways to get a stream of content, and also turn around, and write about your own thoughts and ideas.

There are lots of great online news sites like Reddit's r/javascript, or r/rust.

If that's all too overwhelming, just go subscribe to one of the dozens of great newsletters out there that aggregate all that data into a weekly digest.

JavaScript Weekly: The JavaScript Email Newsletter
React Status
Node Weekly
ES.next News: the latest in JavaScript and cross-platform tools


Go forth and learn

Learning is key to growth. Make sure to create the systems you need to foster learning as a part of your day to day life. You will better yourself, better your company, and better those around you.