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Oh man, this is a hard one.

Dipti asked me a while back and I've been thinking about it again.

So let's talk about it.

I have a few methods in different orders of complexity.

After I wrote down my thoughts, I asked Sarah Drasner who I  really respect and is really good at this. More on that at the end.

Approach #1: Compare with your past self.

Compare yourself with a past version of yourself, say 6 months. If you're more knowledgeable or more skilled at the things you do,  good job! You're on the right direction. Keeping striving forward!

It's important to mention that you should NOT compare yourself with others! Everyone is on their own journey and started at a different place and time. You can only control your own journey, so focus on that. Easier said then done, but it so important!

I've been a big fan of this approach because I don't like to over-analyse. In more recent months however, it hasn't been enough. So I need to bring in a little more structure...

Approach #2: Create measurable goals

Let's take it up a notch. There are 2 steps in this approach:

  1. Have a big long term goal

    Sonal is a designer and wants to transition to a developer role. Her goal is to get a dev job at a startup by the end of the year = 6 months.

    That's a big goal! She is starting without any coding experience or a computer science background.

    Setting the goal itself isn't going to get you anywhere though. Goals are binary, you have either achieved them or you aren't there yet. That makes for a terrible journey! You get no satisfaction until you get there. That's why you need short term targets.
  2. Set weekly targets

    Set measurable targets for yourself. The right way to set these is to track the effort you're putting in (not the end goal)

    Bad target: Learn CSS this month 

    Good target: Spend 5 hours during the week trying to convert a mockup to code with CSS

    See the difference?

    It's difficult to measure how good you are at a skill (especially when starting out, there's no syllabus for these things)

    But, Sonal can track the hours she's spending. It's measurable. If she spends 5 hours spread across the week, she met her target.

    She needs to consistently keeps putting the hours in and she'll keep improving. That's the goal, isn't it?

    As humans, we need constant gratification from time to time to keep us going. That's why to-do lists are great. You get a sense of satisfaction ticking each checkbox  ☑️

    Now, for the adventurous...

Approach #3: Create a syllabus for yourself

In the last section, I said there's no syllabus, what if there was?

I was playing with this idea and starting creating a syllabus for myself, as an experiment. After all, this is how most of us learned subjects in college (or at least tried 😅)

College rules apply:

  • Divide the year into multiple semesters
  • You need to complete a certain number of credits to pass a course

I decided to create 3 month long semesters. Any number between 3 to 6 is good.

You get to define the courses however you want to, you don't have to stick to traditional topics. A good way to think about these is to write down the broad categories you care about.

Here is how I structured my courses: Job progress, Side projects, Learning, Teaching, Community and Personal

Next I started writing everything I wanted to do within these categories. Nothing is off limits. Write down everything you want to do.

Here's a small part from my list:

Now, it's time to look at your list and pick courses for your next semester.

When you put everything in this structure, there are a few things that become very clear:

In a semester,

  • There is only limited amount of things you can run after and that makes it completely guilt-free to leave the rest for later. (I don't feel bad about leaving GraphQL now)
  • You can create a balance by picking one topic from each "course" or maybe you'd like to focus entirely on topics from one course. (I like to mix it up because I get bored very easily 😅)
  • Topics might seem important in isolation but when you put them in this structure, it becomes really easy to prioritise
  • Only pick topics for the coming semester, you don't want to plan the entire year on the first day (unless a topic already has a date attached to it like conferences)
  • You can look back at the end of a semester and objectively see what you accomplished and which courses would you like to repeat in the next semester!
  • Feel free to change your semester as you progress. You run this college 😉 If a course doesn't seem interesting anymore, drop it!

After creating this structure, I am convinced this is a very helpful way of thinking about personal growth.

Turns out Sarah Drasner creates a syllabus for herself as well.

"I make make syllabuses for myself to teach myself new things (I used to be a college professor, so that’s just how I do). I think it’s a great way to stay up to date."

Now it's your turn!

How do you measure your personal growth? Which one is your favourite approach? Reply to this email, I want to hear from you!

Hope this was helpful for you on your journey!

You should follow me on twitter 🐦

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Siddharth · Bangalore · Bangalore 1 · India

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