Whatever your New Year’s resolution is, you’re going to have your hands full achieving it. If it were easy to do, you would have done it already, right? I hope that this article will help put you on a track towards achieving that goal, whether it be educational, fitness, financial, or personal.
Look at the Numbers
First, you’ve got to get real. The odds are that you will not reach your goal.
What? How bad can it be? Well, let’s look at some data from a free MIT class that is available on the MIT OpenCourseWare site. The class 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming is one of their most popular, and it includes YouTube videos of each lecture.
Now, if we go to the YouTube channel page for the class and plot the number of video views by the lecture number, we get a sad result:
The last lectures only have about 2% – 3% of the views that the first lecture has. That’s quite a drop-off. I’m going to assume that there is a correlation between video views and the number of people who progress through the class. If so, then out of all those people who intended to learn that class, only a small fraction completed it. Most stopped within the first four lectures.
How’s your optimism level now?
Why am I being such a Debbie-downer? Because you need to be honest with yourself about your goal. Stop for a second and consider some reasons why you might not finish:
- You arbitrarily picked a goal that you don’t really want to do the work for
- You picked a goal that is too challenging for you right now
- You don’t have the time to complete your desired goal
If one of those reasons is giving you a nagging feeling that you may fall victim to it, here are some things you can do to fix it early:
- Think about an activity you would actually enjoy, and pick a goal based on that
- Cut your goal in half. That will be hard enough as it is. You can always do more later.
- Re-evaluate your priorities. Is there anything else you’re spending time on that isn’t as important?
Chunk it Up
Now that you’ve thought long and hard about what you want to achieve, let’s consider how to go about doing it. The easiest way to make progress on any goal is to break it up into small chunks. Compared to a large, vague goal, small pieces are less intimidating and easier to focus on.
For example, one popular class here on Curious Reef has been Learning Vim From the Inside, which has an above-average participation rate. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that the instructor made it easy to get started. The first assignment is simply to install Vim with two commands that he gives you. That’s it.
I used that same technique for the Programming in C class, where the first assignment is not much more than a “hello, world” program. That class was just created recently, so we’ll have to wait and see if small assignments lead to a higher participation rate there also.
Commit to a Schedule
This is kind of obvious, but it deserves to be explicitly stated. You really need to create a set time to work on your goal and focus on sticking to it for the first few weeks.
If you look again at the graph of MIT lecture video views, you’ll notice that the ratio of views from the last lectures to Lecture #5 is about 40%. That means (assuming video views correspond to learning) that people who get through the first five lectures have a much higher chance of completing the class.
Make a point of incorporating your new activity into your life, and it will become easier over time and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
You Can Do It!
Hopefully this article gave you some ideas on how to evaluate and stick to your New Year’s resolution. If your goal is educational in nature, consider joining or creating a free class here on Curious Reef. You may find that others share the same goal and you can work on it together.