LEARNING, SYSTEMS

4 Useful Tips for Those That Are Starting Something New

I like to Call It the Transient Phase

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

If you are a big fan of learning many skills then the process of learning or creating something new is familiar to you.

Over the past years, I have created many projects and systems both for work and for personal use and there always seems to be a phase of “getting used” to the system/project itself.

One that many don’t account for when time budgeting or one that many people often mistake for “this is too hard, I think this isn’t for me”.

I like to call this phase of anything new, the transient phase. It is the phase where people are still getting used to the project or getting used to the format of learning.

It is often this phase that is the hardest to overcome and I have certainly been a victim of it.

Like with anything new, starting out is hard and we often make little to no progress at all. This can be defeating especially when you started this new journey full of excitement and energy.

I have tried my hand at learning Mandarin a total of 3 times now and only the last time succeeded. This is how the first two tries went.

I would first establish a workflow — when to study, what to study — I would stick to that workflow for the first 2 weeks and then give it up because studying Mandarin was too difficult and I didn’t think I was making any progress at all.

However, I had a bit more luck and grit with the 3rd attempt. Finally acknowledging the transient phase of anything new, I painfully stuck with the workflow I made for a couple of months.

The result? I saw actual progress after 3 months of studying and have kept with the workflow since. Tweaking it every now and then. Don’t get me wrong though, it doesn’t mean studying got easier, it just meant that I felt better about doing it cause I started seeing progress.

Expected Progress vs Actual Progress

Knowing about the existence of this phase can already help but that still doesn’t mean that it is easy to do. Here are the 4 tips that I have found to help me when I start a new project/system.

1. Use the Struggle as Motivation to Get out of the Transient Phase Faster

Most of us think that learning is supposed to feel good that it should feel like you are progressing through. This is rarely the case. It often feels hard and frustrating but this is good. This means that we are rewiring our brains to take in this new information.

The same can be said if you want to create a habit of daily writing. Missing a day or two may seem like the end of the world, but as long as you keep trying, the habit will eventually stick when you get out of the transient phase.

That being said, you can use this pain and suffering to do more because doing more, would mean you progress through the transient phase a lot faster.

2. Acknowledge That the Phase Will Pass

It never feels like it will pass. The difficulty that you face firsthand will often be very defeating and frustrating. But knowing about the transient phase and knowing that it is just the result of starting something new can be your sollace.

Like meditation. Simply acknowledge the pain and suffering and continue on. It will definitely pass, even if it really doesn’t seem like it at the time.

3. Don’t Try to Prepare for Everything

A common mistake and one that I have fallen prey to time and time again is the idea that I have to prepare for everything before starting.

I remember back when I was first trying to create a note-taking system. I spent hours and hours implementing everything and never actually used it.

I even wrote about it here :

Preparing can feel productive because it feels productive and because it feels good but this can hinder us from making true progress.

4. When Time Budgeting, Add 50% more time

I am a big fan of time constraints. When I add time constraints to projects/writing/learning. I find that I perform a lot better.

That being said, if the transient phase is exploratory in the beginning, it can be hard to allocate an accurate time.

A good rule of thumb I have found is to simply add 50% more time than what you think it will take you. This is especially helpful at the beginning and the transient phase. It gives you enough time to figure stuff out and get used to the new thing.

You can always dial the time back down later on as you get better and better.

Final Thoughts

That being said, it still is no easy feat to go through the transient phase. My best hope is to get out of it quickly or acknowledge it. I don’t see a way around it.

Once you do get over this phase. It becomes much easier to stick to things and to actually do the things you want to do.

I have fallen victim to this phase and given up many learning and project opportunities simply because I thought it was too hard and gave up. The truth is everything new will always feel too hard. Sticking with it for longer just makes it bearable.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for reading.

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Engineer. Programmer. Computational Designer. Currently in Sydney.

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Bradenkoh

Bradenkoh

Engineer. Programmer. Computational Designer. Currently in Sydney.

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