Module 03:

Lesson 4: Create a learning schedule

Make a deal with yourself, spend 30 minutes of learning and you can then watch 5 minutes of Russian dashboard cams or celebrities talk about makeup on Instagram.

See, no matter what I tell you, you’ll surely end-up watching office prank videos or reading arguments on Twitter for no good reason. That’s cool. We all do that. We all need a break from work. That’s why a whole industry about balanced living exists.

But there’s a difference between watching car crashes for 8 hours straight and watching these explicitly violent, yet somehow amusing films, for only 5 minutes.

Even Olympic runners eat chocolate every once in a while. But once they eat a bar, they go back to the gym and make sure they burn twice as many calories as the bar had.

The idea is to structure your day around learning, not around having fun. Yes, this sounds boring but you promised yourself that you’ll learn how to [insert what you want to do], remember?

Besides, since social media is no longer present on your phone, you’ll need an activity for the extra hours you have gained.

Once you have your sources of information gathered in the previous lesson ready and waiting, plan your day. Create a strategy that will help you learn something useful daily.

“But I have kids and I have a day job, I don’t have time to learn,” I hear you scream loudly.

You do. We all do.

We simply need to make time.

Here’s how:

Your Typical Day

Here’s a day of your life in boxes (24 hours in boxes):

a day in your life in boxes

And here’s how a typical day of the average person looks like:

typical day

You probably get up 10 minutes before being late. You check your favorite social media channel when you open your eyes + your email. You run to the office. You listen to a podcast on the way there. Every spare minute you have you hop online to check “what’s new” throughout your day. When you’re back home from work, you feel exhausted and you tell yourself that you can’t do anything else other than watching Netflix. And I don’t blame you. 5 hours of scrolling online can be tough.

Things can be totally different if you make some planning.

Your Best Day

To actually gain something from your days, you need to first schedule time for your most important things + add the defaults.

We all have things we can’t change in our lives. We all need to work after all.

That’s why, we all need to schedule time for sleep, time for commute, time to work, time with our family, and friends (at least we should do the last ones).

Let’s observe the above mentioned schedule by first adding the things we can’t go without – sleep, work, food.

It will look kind of like this:

your working day

Since these things are unquestionable, meaning that we need to do them for sure, we can actually go a step further and scratch some of the boxes. The final daily schedule will look like this:

how your day looks like

Well, isn’t this depressing?

We have so little time to goof around.

On a regular day, you have only 4 available time slots to do something other than work or sleep. No wonder why more and more people have mental health problems and want to retire early. On top of everything, it can be soul-crushing if in between work and sleep what we only see is how other people travel from island to island and have an amazing time.

If you don’t properly use these 4 hours to make something you’re proud of, and if you don’t find any joy in your current job, only after a couple of years you’ll despise your existence.

So, instead of simply going with the flow. To prevent our brains from freaking out, we need to make some adjustments to our schedule.

There are a couple of moments during our days that we don’t adequately utilize:

  • The morning
  • The evening
  • In between

Let’s look at them briefly one by one:

How to Plan Your Best Day

The Morning

There are only 24 hours in a day. No more, no less. You can’t buy extra time on Amazon and you surely can’t teleport yourself to work to save the dreaded commute. What you can do though, is to get up early.

Personally, I wake up at 5 AM. My wife thinks I’m crazy.

the best morning

And I’m not going to lie, some mornings are awful. When the phone rings and when I get up, I feel like a soulless bag of bones roaming around the dark apartment, trying to remember what year is it. But it’s worth it. This gives me enough time to write before going to work. Plus, I squeeze a few pages of the book I read.

The secret?

I did it gradually. I started by waking up at 06:30. Then, I moved it to 06:00. After my son was born, I had to make more adjustments to my schedule because changing diapers and preparing milk was like a second job. At that point, I moved my alarm clock to 05:30, then 05:15 and now it’s 05:00.

Of course, I go to bed early – around 10:00 PM.

I don’t listen to tantric music. I don’t drink herbal tea and I surely don’t practice a strange-sounding routine. It took me around a year to make the adjustment. And yes, I also get up at 05:00 AM on the weekends.

But hey, this doesn’t mean that you need to get up before everyone else in the neighborhood. You can simply move the clock just a bit before your current time. A lot of times 30 or 40 minutes will be enough. Multiply this by 365 days and at the end of the year, you can be a self-thought engineer working for the next big startup.

📋 Pro tips:

  1. Prepare your room for the morning. If you’re going to exercise when you get up, arrange the equipment you’re going to use the night before. That’s what I do every evening before going under the blanket. I set my yoga mat along with the dumbbells. Then, I prepare my working station for my writing session right after the workout. Also, I write down on a piece of paper what I’m going to write about. This is really important. You need to have a clear goal when you get up in the morning. To be really specific. Otherwise, you’ll simply waste your morning.
  2. You can read the following two books: The 5 AM ClubCan’t Hurt Me. These two inspired me to wake up before the sun is up.

The Evening

OK, I get it. You’re not a morning person. That’s fine. Those of you who set a couple of alarm clocks only to get up on time probably stopped reading after I mentioned that getting at 5 AM is a good idea.

Don’t worry, if going to bed at 10 PM feels like an insult you can still find time. Simply change your activities prior to hitting the sack. Squeeze an hour for learning before going to bed. Lock your wife and kids in the other room and find some quality time for yourself.

the evening

Personally, I schedule the evening for low-level activities. As you can imagine, I’m tired when the sun begins to set. So, instead of trying to fight nature, I use the time before going to sleep to read. I don’t write in the evenings – I simply can’t. That’s why I do something that’s easy – I read.

If you’re not a morning person you can turn things around. Perform low-level activities in the morning that are still aligned with your goal – reading articles about coding (or whatever else you want to learn) – and use the time in the evening to do some serious progress – write some code.

In between

A lot of people ask me, “Hey, Ivaylo. I’m amazed. How do you find time to read so many books? I mean, I struggle to read a single book and hear you are, reading a book every week. What’s the secret?”

I read on my phone whenever I have the chance.

The best thing about not having social media on your phone is that you don’t spend your time reacting to other people’s priorities.

When I have a couple of minutes to spare – say I’m waiting in line or I take a short break in the afternoon – I read. I open the app I use for reading and I squeeze a few pages. These pages add up.

durning the day

3 pages when buying groceries. 5 pages when I wait for my wife to prepare for going out. 7 pages when visiting the restroom. You get the idea. Small progress but done consistently.

Even if the activity you want to learn requires doing something physical – say you want to become a bladesmith – you surely can use the time you have at your disposal to learn something on the topic. Watch a short video or read an article about the best hydraulic hammers.

📋 Pro tip:

Distractions are all around us. We need to prepare ourselves. Make sure to have resources aligned with your goal ready on your phone. Download an ebook related to the thing you want to learn or have a website sitting open on your browser.

Your monkey mind is always trying to point you to the path of the least resistance. Even if you deleted Instagram or Twitter, you can still access them online. A good strategy will be to change the password of these platforms and log out. Make the new password hard to remember. The main idea here is to add friction. The learning resources should be a click away while the distractions should be difficult to access.

Of course, it’s not always that easy.

Distractions are all around us. And as mentioned previously, app developers and designers create awfully good user experience that’s hard to resist.

To prevent your fingers from automatically typing Facebook, you need to prepare yourself for two distinctive moments during your day:

  1. When on your desktop computer.
  2. When on your phone.

If you’re reading, watching something online on your desktop computer, your laptop, it’s a bit easier to cut distractions. At least for me. I have browser extensions installed on my laptop and they are preventing me from going on an online marathon of watching how people are throwing electric scooters in the water.

When you’re on your phone though, it’s a different story. Your slick phone is constantly telling you to check stuff – check your email, check Facebook, check your email again. 

Your monkey mind is seeking novelty all the time. Probably because you’re lying on your couch comfortably and you don’t want to involve yourself in a high-effort activity. Exactly for these moments, you need to be prepared. And exactly for this reason, you need to remove all the distracting apps from your phone.

From the sources you found previously, find something lite to practice when you’re on your phone. Something easier to track and progress. For example, a book, a video series, or a course online that is mobile-friendly.

This activity should help you improve in some way or another.

Again, don’t beat yourself too hard if at some point you’re in the middle of a Twitter frenzy, just make sure you go back to your task as soon as you sense how time starts to evaporate.

Create your schedule to learn and set some time aside for fun activities like taking a virtual walk in the endless realms of Wikipedia or scrolling online till your thumb hurts.

✍️ Action Section:

Organize your life and create a schedule that will actually help you learn new things.

Action Items:

Take some time to consider the default activities in your life – the ones that you can’t exclude. Add them to your schedule first and use the remaining free time to focus on learning new things that will help you improve.

Download the Workbook and use Worksheet #5 to create a schedule for your tasks and assign hours where you are going focus on learning.

Mark this lesson as complete to move to the next lesson…

Action Items:

Download the Workbook and use Worksheet #5 to create a schedule for your tasks and assign hours where you are going focus on learning.