“Little by little after a while makes a big pile.” --Anonymous
Over the course of a career, a professional learns a lot of new skills, new locations, new jobs, and new methods. Every time something new gets added to our learning agenda, we can either be excited at the opportunity or resentful of someone else changing our routine. Often we are also feeling too busy doing our normal routines to add in a new skill.
While discussing new skills and ideas in our Water Cooler Chats, I remind myself that not everyone spends entire Sundays learning new skills or playing with new tools. However, I’m a big believer in doing so, and when I teach, I like to break new skills down into workable pieces. This method may also work for you if you are hoping to gain a new skill but also coping with continual interruptions, meetings, deadlines, and other demands.
My best example of breaking down a new skill is how my CrossFit coach taught me to lift weights. He had all of us in the class grab small PVC pipes and practice our technique – and we practiced each part of the weightlifting technique one at a time. For instance, we practiced lifting the bar from our shins (where a loaded weightlifting bar would rest) to our thighs while moving our knees back and keeping our backs straight. Then we added the second phase of weightlifting – popping the bar at our waists. The third was diving under the popped bar. By the time he was done showing us and drilling us on each step, I could lift much more weight over my head without injury than I could before. The step process was tedious but the results were amazing.
If you are trying to pick up a new discipline, like Data Science, consider doing it one step at a time. Remember that even Benjamin Franklin started his career by trimming the ends off of candles, so you can pick up skills in bite-sized pieces. For instance, to learn how to model a Major Gifts prospect – normally the first foray for a new fundraising data scientist – try this outline:
You may only have one hour at a time to learn a technique, so keep careful notes and an outline, and a clear way to mark your progress. If you can pick up where you left off without losing time, you’ll be more likely to pick up again. Once you’ve practiced a skill well enough to show it to someone else, make sure to add it to your resume and LinkedIn page. Because you earned it.