When doing think. When thinking do.
A career swings between two extremes, leveraging strengths and mitigating weaknesses. A tactic I’ve found helpful through each swing of the pendulum is immersion—an approach for building on strengths and mitigating weaknesses.
You might adopt this tactic in the midst of or leading up to a moment that requires uplevelled skills in any one area. When leverage your managing and leveraging your own curriculum.
What to focus on?
The first question at any time is what to focus on. The key principle of immersion is that you choose one area of focus at a time: visual design, typography, team communication.
The right area to focus on will come to you swiftly with just a moment of reflection:
What is the single most important area for me to improve to get where I’m going.
This question is temporal. Your goal is to constantly improve the single most important area—similar to chain runs. You’re constantly improving the most important area, until there is another most important area.
Time box it
Take to your journal and write a concrete goal. By X, I will be better at Y, as demonstrated by Z.
Your time horizon should be a 2-8 week interval.
Build a list
What about all those areas you didn’t focus on? well build a list. I use a simple excel file to prioritize all my potential areas of focus and come back to it.
Ok, now plow Amazon, or your favorite library and put your money where your mouth is. Acquire 2-5 books on the subject area.
You’re going to read them in tandem. One book is your primary read, and the other is your change of pace read. So for example listen to an audio book in the morning, and read a different book in the evening. The goal is not to plow throw books in the domain, but to replicate a good class environment. You’re hearing the same ideas from different perspectives—forcing you to synthesize versus rote learning.
With your reading list at hand build a set of activities you will do to exercise your idea.
This is critical because you need both “know what” and “know how.” Riding a bike is “know how”—teaching your child how to ride a bike is “know what”.
Let’s combine theory and practice.
Do it all again
Times up it’s 8 weeks later. You’re improved at this. Take a break, or dive into your next immersion.
I’ve used this approach to:
1. Learn visual design
2. Learn tableau
3. Learn illustrator
4. Learn regression analysis
5. Learn presentation design
6. Build forecasting models
7. Learn the foundations of philosophy
8. And countless others…