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Following the Rules

Reader Question: How Do I Stop Myself From Losing Interest When Learning New Skills?

A reader came to me with a question about quitting projects too soon. I’ve written about why we do this before, but what you’re about to read are two strategies you can use to sustain motivation on a project, even when you’re bored as hell.

Once you’ve used the Passion Blender Technique to find out what you like to do, you can use this technique to keep you going.


This week’s question comes from Matthew P:

Hey Alex,

I’m finding it pretty hard to find something to do. Now, I get a decent amount of exercise and meditate, but that’s about it after my sixth form work (upper high school for Brits). I don’t have a problem with relaxing but I am not a fan of downtime! I’m looking to be motivated to learn something. Occasionally I pick up something like learning python for example, get into it for a few days and then don’t have the drive to do anything with it. As a result I find myself living the same days over again which isn’t too much fun!

Matthew P.

My answer:

Hey Matthew,

Glad to have you as a reader! Sounds like you’re getting bored with what you’re learning too quickly — I do the same thing.

Quick story: I hated Spanish in high school, and couldn’t get myself to learn anything — I even repeated Spanish 1 three times. I didn’t see a point in learning it except “it would be cool,” so I constantly gave up.

It wasn’t until a friend and I decided to go to Spain last year that I decided to learn how to have a simple conversation and get around, and once I had that goal, I used Memrise to learn conversational Spanish in 60 days. Once I set a specific and tangible goal, the boredom I felt was completely GONE.

Have you tried anything to force yourself to get motivated like learning a project with a friend or promising to give away money to charity if you don’t succeed?

Also, I found that having a specific project helps. For example, instead of “learning python,” try “building a playable video game and showing it to a friend” — you could even get an online course that teaches you exactly that.

Having a solid end point will make it harder to give up, especially if you tell your friends what you’re working on and when you expect to be finished.


How To Stop Losing Interest In Projects So Quickly

Step-by-step, here’s how to sustain interest over long periods of time.

  1. Before you start practicing a new skill, decide on a small project that will take less than 12 days to complete.
  2. Find a friend and hand him $50 — tell him that he can’t give it back to you unless you complete the 12 day project, and use the principle of loss aversion to motivate you to keep going during this period.
  3. After those 12 days, if you hate the topic, then you can quit, but if you like it congratulations — you’re one step closer to finding something you love to do.
  4. Once the project is completed, reach out to experts (like I outline here) and ask about more small projects you can complete.
  5. Repeat with 12 day projects until you either fall in love with what you’re doing or start to hate it, in which case you can choose something else and repeat the process.

Some 12 day projects you can take up:

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P.S. Have a question or something you’re struggling with? You can email me right here and I’ll try my best to help :)

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