A simple approach to solve a problem

At work and outside work, we have many situations for that we need to find a solution to a problem. Here are some example problems to find a solution for:

  • Decide the success criteria of a project.
  • Determine a career track for you.
  • Determine the decision from a data table.
  • Decide which holiday location is right for you, which is in budget and time.

Here are few techniques that I use, to decide the next steps:

  • I attempt to create a simple spreadsheet.
  • I write the desired outcome in a column or in a row, whichever you prefer.
  • I write the next possible outcome/step.
  • I continue the process until you find all your answers.
  • I revisit this process as needed.

Below is an example of a person looking for a job change as a UI developer. This person worked as a UI developer long time ago. She is interested in upgrading her skills, to get a desired job. Let’s look at the decision steps below:

Desired outcomeGet a job as a UI developer
What is the first step?Analyze the current skills set
What is your current skills setI know Javascript, JQuery, CSS, and HTML
Is my current skills set sufficient to get a job at my current desired location?No
If no to previous column, what skills set needs to be added?One of these Javascript frameworks: React, Vue, or Angular
Which framework I want to learn?Not sure
How to decide which framework to learn?Do the market analysis. Understand which one is easier and attractive to learn
How to do the market analysis?Look at jobs on linkedin.com for last 30 days to analyze which one is most and least popular
What is the outcome of the analysis?React is the most popular in my area
How can I learn React JS?1. Find a tutor or an online course
2. Get a book
3. Plan for a dummy project
4. Find time to learn
How much time I need to learn this skill realistically?I will need to read a book. I will need to get an online course too. I will need to create a dummy project also. Reading a 300 page book will take at least 6 hours for me. An online course will need 6 weeks, with 4-6 hours commitment every week. To create a dummy project, I need at least 40 hours. In total, I am looking for roughly 70 hours. Let’s plan for 80 hours. In a week, I can spend no more than 5 hours. With that calculation, I need 16 weeks. It is roughly around 4 months.
Note: I may need time to refer to online resources. I should also plan for at least two weeks unplanned. With this speed of learning plan, I need around 5 months to learn react JS. To learn it quicker than 5 months, I need to increase learning hours per week or reduce the scope of learning.

This is just a basic example of one of an example problem. Depending on the situation, it’s ok to create a flowchart, a decision tree, or a more detailed spreadsheet format. Some possible steps could be to consult a friend or an expert. Add all such steps and update the status of it.

Thank you. As I learn more, I will update this article.

How to learn 1-hour every weekday

In any career track, it is important to keep learning. For example, technologies are changing with a rapid speed. It’s important to keep learning if you are in a technology career. Everyone talks about learning continuously and everyone understands the importance of it. How to really keep yourself updated? I went through a very informative article about a 5-hour rule of learning every week. As per this rule, learning one hour every week day is required to stay up-to-date in your field. If we are convinced to follow the 5-hr rule, here are few ideas on how to make it happen:

  1. Accountability:

How to make yourself accountable for it to make it happen? These are few ideas:

  • If you like writing (as I do), what if you commit yourself to come up with one article of the week that you share with your audience what you learned this week? It could be a simple article about one single technical topic or anything you learned. Can you commit your audience to know by Friday evening or Saturday morning what you learned in the week? If you like writing, what if you start your auto-biography in that you write about each week’s learning?
  • If you like speaking, can you create an audio clip about what you learned in the week?
  • If you like painting, can you draw a picture about what you learned in the week?

Some other ideas for accountability: Imagine you are an IT consultant who has to fill-up a weekly timesheet that has a section of 1-hour learning every day. Imagine that the timesheet will be approved only if the 1-hr learning section is filled up.

2. Fix the learning hour for every weekday:

If we can set a fixed time in the day every week for the learning, it has more chances that we will not miss it. By chance, if you missed it, ensure to cover it up before sleeping. In the worst case, one cheat day in a week is ok. Here are some ideas on how to fix the hour for the learning:

  • Morning time: What if we get-up one hour earlier and use that hour for learning? It needs determination and assumption. Assume we had to get up one hour earlier. What if we start reaching work one hour earlier and use that hour for learning? Avoid the temptation of checking emails or other distractions.
  • Lunch time: What if we convert the lunch hour as a learning hour? We will not get a complete hour but 20 minutes quality time is a possibility. 
  • In between the work hours:  What if we block one hour every day at work for learning? The difficulty is to avoid the temptation of replacing it with an urgent meeting or task. One cheat day is ok. What if we go home one hour late?
  • Before sleeping: What if we plan to sleep one hour late?

3. Be realistic with your goal:

An example of an unrealistic goal would be to complete a 500-page book in a week. An example of a realistic goal would be to understand one topic of the book every day. Here is another key to plan. If you think we can finish three topics in the day, then, what if we reduce it to one third of the goal?

4. Temptation to skip it today:

There are high chances you may be tempted to skip it just today because today is a busy day. It will happen many times. Remember. Everyday is a fresh day for new opportunities.

Decide today the topic for tomorrow:

If we don’t know what the topic is for tomorrow, we have a high chance to skip it tomorrow. So, it’s critical to be specific about the learning goal for tomorrow. A better idea is to plan for a week in advance. If at the moment we feel like learning something else, we should note it. Delay the next topic to another hour, if we get it in the day. Consider it as a work meeting on the decided topic that has the deadline today.

5. Other difficulties:

  • We may face a difficulty of breaking the topic in small units. So, to challenge it, consider it as a project with a go-live date. Break the work down into a small unit of work that takes about 20 minutes to finish.
  • What if you are not in the mood to learn today? This task is not for today and it can not be dependent on the mood today. It is a task for the future that has to happen today. If you are upset or angry about a situation at work, consider this task as an activity to change this situation in the future. It is anyway a good idea to let the day go in a flow, write down such moments, and review those at the end of the day.
  • What if you had some emergency situations at work or at home? Use it as a cheat day or try to adjust other things on the plate.

I would like to know your views about 5-hr learning rule and your ideas about how to stick to this rule.