One a day

A couple months back, there was a post on HN about Jennifer Dewalt who was partway through making 180 websites in 180 days. I found it pretty inspiring, and was surprised at the variety of her daily entries. She finished yesterday, which is awesome, and you can clearly see that she made a ton of progress! I’m extremely jealous of either 1) her amount of free time or 2) her ability to function without sleep.

Her journey inspired some conversation on the value of practice and how it should be structured. I think that to improve, short daily practice isn’t enough. Practice needs to be long enough that you not only reinforce past learning, but also think about and make sense of new concepts. However, if you’re limited by time, you often only run through and practice things you’re already familiar with. For example, on days I had a lot of homework, my daily piano practice would merely be a repetition of scales and exercises and perhaps a cursory runthrough of my current pieces. Only when I had more time could I really dig deep into the pieces I was learning.

This is a bigger problem when it comes to coding or other similar tasks. Since I usually code at night after work, I usually don’t have that much time. In addition, coding is more suited for long sessions; there’s always that ramp-up period where you’re getting in the zone, trying to remember where you left off. My time constraints (practice time versus sleep) really impact the amount of progress I can get per night. Hopefully, though, I’ll be able to reduce the amount of sleep I need and increase my free time.

I’ve been contemplating starting a “365”-type one-a-day project for photography and foreign languages as well, since I think by nature, these are easier to learn on a short, frequent basis. It’s like how you can learn to knit or sew by practicing in short bursts, but you can’t learn how to run a mile by running 50m a day. However, by breaking down practice into such tiny goals, you tend to dismiss the goal the smaller it gets. For example, although planning, taking, editing and uploading one picture a day might sound easy, half the time you begin your daily picture at 11pm and end up doing a bad/rushed job. Such small incremental goals are easy to overlook, and you end up failing to learn meaningfully. And in terms of foreign languages, I’ll be trying out Memrise over the next couple of months to see if their daily, repetitive vocab practice will work. If it’s not blocked on the corporate network.