If you’re reading this site, you’re into personal development. You like learning and growing, right?
Well, you’re going to have to learn some new skills at some point.
How long does it take to learn a new skill?
Well, they say it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to get to the point where you’re really good at the skill. I would take that one step further though, and say you can get to a point where you’re ABOVE average in about 20 hours or so.
Those first 20 hours of practice is they’re focused and deliberate enough will take you from knowing NOTHING about the new skill, to being much better than the average person. It’s interesting to study how quickly it takes people to become good at a new skill.
I think the 10,000 hour rule is largely a scary obstacle for most people, and to be honest, it’s just not true. I’ve learned new skills in as little as 6 hours sometimes. It really depends on the specific skill. Some things are MUCH harder or easier to learn than others.
For example, it’s going to take you a lot longer to learn how to fly a plane than it would take you to tie your shoelaces or tie a half windsor knot in your tie, right?
What is the 10,000 hour rule?
The 10,000 hour rule is the idea that it takes you that long to become a master at a skill. Be aware of the word ‘master’. You can get to a point where you know a LOT about your skill without being a MASTER.
Being a master is something that you might not even want or need to achieve. If you’re like most of us, you just want to be able to pick up a small skill that might come in useful one day. Something like lockpicking, climbing, freerunning or social skills.
Of course if you want to learn other more complicated skills then it’s going to take longer. It’s actually quite encouraging that it only takes 10,000 hours to become a MASTER of something. They also say that if you read just 3 books about a subject, you’ll know more than 95% of the WORLD about that topic.
Think about that for a second, that’s actually very doable!
50 ways to learn new skills much faster
So here are the top 40 ways to learn new skills as fast as possible. You don’t have to do all of these things, but they certainly help. In fact I’d suggest just trying a few of these techniques first and then seeing how you get on.
By the way, this applies to almost any skill you want to learn, for example:
- A new langage
- A martial art
- Social skills
- DIY like putting up a shelf
- And so on
1: Set a specific goals
Goals are important for a number of reasons but mainly because without them, you’ll have no idea when you’re arrived. Without a goal, how do you know when you’re done the thing, or learned the skill?
There’s no progress tracking, because you don’t know what you’re aiming for. You can’t easily tell how far you’ve come, because you don’t know where you’re going. It’s very important to set specific goals early on.
I’m sure you’ve read posts about setting goals before, and they’ll talk about the right way to set them. I have an article about setting goals which you might want to read, but here’s a summary:
- Set really specific goals ideally binary ones (You either practiced for an hour or you didn’t)
- Set goals that challenge you but aren’t impossible
- Stick to them and don’t change them when they become difficult to reach
2: Break the skill down into tiny parts
Every skill can be broken down into small easy to learn parts.
It’s just when it’s all put together it becomes difficult, right?
So focus on breaking the skill down into the actual physical or mental steps you’ll need to take to do the thing. For example if you’re trying to learn how to draw people, focus first on getting good at drawing the outlines, then the shading and so on.
3: Use the pareto principle
The pareto principle is the idea that 80% of the results come from only about 20% of the work. This can be true for a number of things but in terms of learning a new skill, it’s very true.
So focus on trying to find that 20% of your practice that’s going to give you 80% of the results. In terms of learning new skills, this will often be in the area of discomfort. When you start learning something new, there’s that period of time where you learn lots of the little micro skills and techniques, right?
But then after that, you’ll learn the areas of the skill that you’re finding really difficult. You’ll tend to naturally practice those difficult things LESS and focus instead on the parts of the skill that you find easy. It’s natural for humans to avoid discomfort and seek comfort.
This means unless we actively TRY and do the most difficult parts of the skill, we’ll naturally move away from doing those difficult things. But MOST of your progress will come from practicing the things you find the MOST difficult, not the easiest.
4: Remove distractions and excuses
Distractions are everywhere.
When you’re practicing your skill, make sure there are no distractions or annoying things around you that you might be tempted to do instead of practicing. If you always check your phone when you practice, put your phone in another room.
Even if you have to create a special place for you to practice your new skill, that’s good. It means you won’t be distracted and tempted to check other things like your phone, youtube or whatever else you could be doing instead of practicing.
And remember, the faster you get those 20 hours of SOLID undistracted practice in, the faster you’ll learn the new skill. So remove all distractions.
5: Precommit to 6 months
It’s going to take a long time to MASTER the skill, but it’s worth committing to at least 6 months. 6 months will take you to a level of skill which you’ll be amazed you could get to.
But you need to commit to practicing every day for about an hour, for those 6 months. I know in the title it says 20 hours, but it’s going to take a long time to actually master the skill. 20 hours will get you to a place where you’re pretty good at the skill, but committing to 6 months is even better.
6: Ignore the talent myth
There is a common and dangerous myth going around these days that you need TALENT in order to become succesful or learn a skill. People think this about all sorts of things, like being an athlete, musician, making money, getting rich, traveling and anything else.
The fact is that talent really doesn’t matter.
What matters is that ANY skill can be learned, and broken down into simple, small steps. IF you learn those small steps, you can learn the skill.
This means by the way, that ANYONE who learns the skills can become an athlete, millionaire, investor, author or whatever else. You just have to learn and research the skills, and then practice them. But peoples egos step in once again and give them the talent thing as an excuse for why they’re not where they want to be.
Don’t buy into it. You can do anything.
7: Believe in yourself
If you want to learn new skills, you’ve got to believe in yourself. You’ll get comments from your friends saying ‘but you don’t know how to do that’ and so on.
You should respond by saying ‘of course I don’t know how, that’s why I’m learning!’. Make sure that you tell people you’re learning a new skill, and you always talk in positive terms about the skill. Talk as if you were already good at the skill (but not in an arrogant way).
It’s more of a calm confidence that you’ll learn the skill and you’ll become good at it. Maintain that attitude, because when it gets tough and you’re lacking motivation, you need to be able to motivate YOURSELF.
8: Aim for above average
Remember, you don’t need to MASTER the skill. Becoming just good at a skill is often more than enough for what we’re trying to do, and it’s going to take a lot less time to do that as well.
For example say if you’re learning how to cook a good stew. You don’t need to become the next Gordon Ramsey, you just need to learn a few skills and techniques, and how to combine the ingredients in a way that makes a nice stew.
That’s really all that skill is, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not perfect or world class. Unless of course your goal IS to become world class, in which case it’s a very long road ahead my friend, but you can do it. Anyone can, just by practicing enough, with enough intensity.
9: Some SOME research before starting
Do some light reading about the skill, and more importantly, about how people can LEARN the skill.
For example, if you’re trying to learn a new language, research HOW people can best learn that skill. In the case of a language, it’s all about learning lots of the vocab, and immersing yourself in the language. Also, going from learning to SPEAKING in the language as fast as possible.
So research how to actually learn the skill. It will save you a lot of time.
10: Don’t try and change everything
You don’t need to learn EVERYTHING about the skill in the first week. Take your time and learn slowly but surely. It’s more important that you actually LEARN the skill properly.
It doesn’t matter if you blaze through the skill if you can’t actually remember what you’ve learned afterwards.
It’s actually better to space your learning out over time and practice for about an hour or two a day instead of learning the skill for 6 hours a day just for one week or so.
11: Obsess about who you want to become
While you’re learning, use a common NLP technique called mirroring.
Mirroring involves obsessing about the type of person you want to become. In the example of learning a skill, find someone who has learned the skill to a high degree. An idol or someone you can look up to for inspiration. Try and emulate the person.
Watch how they move, walk and talk. The way they conduct themselves and how they interact with people. This will give you a helping hand with learning the skill and getting into the mindset of someone who has already mastered it.
12: DO the skill as fast as possible
The key for learning a skill fast is to go from LEARNING to DOING as quickly as possible.
Learn just enough about the skill that you can notice when you’re doing it wrong, and then just DO IT as often as you can. In the case of rock climbing, learn basic technique, form and methods for climbing, and then just go and climb every week or day.
13: Set specific practice time blocks
When you’re learning, you’re going to be distracted.
There are going to be days when you’ve got lots of other things you could be doing. It’s important to commit to time blocks and practice your skill in those time blocks no matter what happens.
This could be an hour or two a day or even just half an hour a day. The point is to make sure you always stick to it.
The easiest way of doing this by the way, is to make your time block first thing in the morning. That way your willpower is at it’s highest and you’re much less likely to skip practice.
14: Don’t cram it all into one day
Make sure you’re not trying to learn everything too fast.
It’s better to take your time and space your practice out. But more importantly, make sure you FULLY learn a micro skill before moving on. Don’t just learn enough to realise that you need to practice, and then move onto the next thing.
Remember, when it’s DIFFICULT that’s when you need to keep practicing.
The fact that you find it difficult means you’re learning and improving. If you’re finding your practice easy, you’re not practicing the right stuff. Practice and learning a new skill should feel uncomfortable and difficult most of the time.
That’s how you know you’re learning things that you didn’t know before, and building skills that you didn’t have before.
15: Have a special place to practice
It helps your mindset to set aside a special place in your house to practice your skill. This can be a small area of your room or just somewhere that you know you won’t be interrupted.
This helps with your mindset and it helps you get into the mindset of practicing when you enter that space. To make this effective, make sure you never watch youtube or check your phone when you’re physically in this space. In fact don’t even take your phone into the space.
This might not always be possible however, and there are some skills that you’ll need to USE your phone for to practice. This is mainly with things like languages, but for most things you don’t need your phone to practice the skill.
16: Prepare everything you’ll need
If you’ve set aside a place to practice, and a time to practice, you need to prepare to practice as well.
This might mean leaving your running shoes out the night before, or leaving your martial arts outfit on the chair ready for you to put on. The point here is to make it as easy as possible to physically start practicing. You don’t want to have to dig out the thing you need from a pile of rubbish in your cupboard.
17: Find the difficulty zone
I’ve mentioned this a few times already but it’s super important.
When you’re finding your practice DIFFICULT is the most important time to stick with it. The fact that it’s difficult means you’re learning and growing skills you didn’t have before.
If you avoid that difficulty and only practice the things you’re already good at, you’ll never really improve. I didn’t realise this and learned the hard way. For YEARS I played guitar, practicing only the things I was good at and enjoyed playing.
I didn’t improve for years.
I stayed the same level of skill, and never got better. But the fact is even just 10 minutes a day of practicing things that I found REALLY difficult, I’d be a completely different and much better player now.
Now when I learn a new skill I ONLY focus on practicing what’s difficult. Then every now and then I’ll go over the easy stuff to just make sure I’ve learned it. But you’ll want to focus on the parts of the skill that you find hard to practice.
18: Find someone who’s better than you
We’re the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. So if the people you’re spending time with are the same or a LOWER level of skill than you, you’re never really going to improve.
It’s good to surround yourself with a variety of people but make sure that you have at least 2-3 people in your life who are a LOT better at the skill than you are. This keeps you motivated, you can ask them questions, and they can inspire you to get better.
To do this, there are various meetup groups and apps you can use to find the people near you that are better than you. For the most part though you can actually just consume content online from people that are skilled! Almost any skill will have people with youtube channels showing off their skills.
Follow and find those channels, and consume the content. Become immersed in it, and study the people who are great at the skill you want to learn.
19: Remind yourself that you’re learning
It’s easy to beat yourself up while you’re learning and ask yourself why you’re not already good. Because you WANT to be good at the skill (of course) you’ll naturally want to learn faster.
And that’s where a lot of people beat themselves up or quit. Make sure to remind yourself that you’re learning, you’re not perfect, and you will get better and better over time. Keep telling yourself ‘each day and in every way I’m getting better and better’.
This helps keep your motivation in line and it’s a helpful reminder. You don’t need to be perfect, all you need to do is keep practicing, every single day. Do that, and you’ll look back in a year and be AMAZED at what you’ve done.
20: Get a buddy and learn together
If you know someone who’s also interested in the same skill as you, find a way of learning and practicing together. This way you’ll keep eachother motivated, and you can kick eachother in the butt if you start to get distracted.
There are some apps you can find to get together with people that are learning the same skill as you. I think off the top of my head you can find people on Meetup, but there are probably lots of groups and apps near you! (Also, just ask in the place you go to practice your skill).
For example if you’re trying to become a better martial artist just ask people who train at your gym or dojo if you can practice together. The chances are most of the people going there also want to improve, so maybe you can find a buddy who would be up for training outside of class with you.
21: Join a meetup group for the skill
The importance of meeting other people who are learning the same skill as you are can’t be overstated. By socialising and talking with people doing the same thing as you are, you’ll both feel more motivated to carry on.
It’s so easy to just not socialise with those people and just try and learn the skill on your own in your room. If you do that though, you’re much less likely to succeed in the long run.
It’s easy enough now to find people that are interested in the same sorts of things as you’re interested in, so make the most of it! Even if you just find ONE person who is doing the same thing as you, you can launch eachother into success.
22: Film yourself (or record yourself)
This applies more to physical or auditory things like learning a language, but if you can, record yourself doing the skill! For example, right now I’m trying to learn how to hold a handstand for 60 seconds and eventually do handstand pressups while in that position.
Something like this video:
And in order to do that I practice every day, I work on physical strength and also focusing on improving balance and flexibility. Along side that, every time I practice I’ll also film myself so I can see what my forms like, and where I’m going wrong.
It’s very useful to be able to see yourself doing the thing, whether it’s handstands, magic tricks, or even just hearing yourself say words in a foreign language. Remember nobody else has to see this, it’s just for you to look back on (unless you WANT to show your friends your progress at least!).
23: Aim to make mistakes fast
Here’s the deal:
When you learn a new skill, you’re going to make LOTS of mistakes. Get that into your head as soon as you can, and get to a place where you’re fine with it.
Expect to make mistakes. But the important part is this:
As you make the mistake, you need to be able to recognize that you’ve MADE the mistake, and correct it AS SOON as you realise you’re made a mistake. If you don’t do that, you’ll end up practicing how to make mistakes, and you’ll get better and better at doing the skill the wrong way.
It takes a lot longer to UNLEARN a mistake you’ve been practicing. This is why it’s important to know enough that you can catch yourself when you make mistakes.
24: Always practice and think about it
If you’re lucky enough that your skill can be practiced internally, just practice it whenever you have a space moment. This way you’ll never be bored and you can always make the most of your free time.
A good example is things like languages. You can always listen to a podcast or an interview in your language through headphones. So if the bus is late, or you’re walking to work, you’ll always be able to listen and practice the skill.
It’s harder with things like horse riding, because most of us don’t carry horses around with us in our pockets.
25: Immerse yourself in that skill
As much as you can, try and immerse yourself in the skill you’re trying to learn. If you’re learning a martial art like Karate, immerse yourself in it. Practice the moves every day, talk to other karate practitioners, watch films about it, listen to interviews from champions and experts and so on.
This will fast forward your learning process. It also helps to do things like go to events about your skill, podcasts, music and even videos. Anything that can hep get you in the mindset of being good at that skill.
26: Make a bet with a friend
This is a risky one, but what I’ve done in the past is make a bet on myself with a friend. For example, if I know I need to commit to practicing 1 hour a day at something I’ll bet my friend that I’ll practice for 1 hour a day.
I’ll say something like ‘I’ll give you $100 if I DON’T practice every day for the next month’. And it’s very effective, because there’s that added financial motivation. The bigger the amount of money, the more likely yo are to stick with it as well.
27: Teach what you know
Once you get to a certain skill level, a really effective way of confirming what you know is teaching it to someone. By teaching something, you have to understand it to a certain level so that you can answer questions about it and explain how it works.
This only really applies when you’ve got to a certain level of skill, but once you’ve learned enough that you feel you could teach, maybe consider explaining your concept or skill to a friend or even going to a meetup group and teaching what you know.
28: Explain it to a child
This is a good way of consolidating knowledge you already have. By explaining something yo a child you have to break it down into the most simple form and concepts. This means you have to understand it so well that you’re able to decide which parts are the most important.
It also forces you to explain it without big words, only using words that you understand and can explain. Try explaining or teaching part of your skill to a child.
29: Get financially invested in it
It makes you more motivated to invest your own money into your skill. This could be in the form of buying a course, buying new gear for example running shoes or even hiring a mentor. The more of your money you’ve invested into something, the more committed you’ll be to getting something out of it.
Don’t cripple yourself of course, but also don’t be afraid of spending money on learning your skill. Lessons, courses, ebooks, products and training will all help you learn and stay motivated.
30: Learn to remember
When you’re learning something, most people read and then move onto the next thing and read that. Instead, read or learn something and then instantly try and RECALL what you’ve just learned.
This enforces the memory and makes it stronger.
As well as doing this as soon as you’ve learned something, do it a few days after as well. By recalling your information you’re making it stick in your brain. One of the most powerful memory techniques is to practice recalling what you’ve learned at spaced intervals.
31: Course correct from mistakes
Once you’ve learned enough about your skill to NOTICE when you make mistakes, always correct yourself. The second you see or catch yourself making what you know to be a mistake, always correct it.
In the example of playing guitar, if you notice yourself make a mistake when playing a scale, go back and start it again. Only practice things perfectly, and if you make mistakes, go back and start again. This is because you need to practice things the right way.
If you don’t, all you’re doing is making bad habits last longer.
This is especially true with physical actions and skills or anything that involves muscle memory. Learn perfect form right from the start, and you’ll save yourself hours of pain and trouble later.
It took me MONTHS to unlearn the false deadlift technique I’d been practicing for about a year. Not only that but it’s going to be easier to learn harder parts of the skill later, if you’ve got the basics down with perfect form.
32: Get over the first dip
After a few weeks or months of practice, you’ll get to a point that we call the dip.
The dip is the point in time where you’ve learned a few parts of the skill and maybe even got good at some parts, but you know what’s difficult. You’re starting to avoid practicing the hard things and just having fun with the easy things. This happens with all of us and if we don’t catch it, it can last forever.
It’s important as I said before to always focus on practicing the things that you find the hardest. That’s where your 90% of progress will come from. Think about it, why would you practice something you’ve already learned, and AVOID doing something you’re trying to learn?
33: Stay motivated
To keep yourself motivated, you might want to have posters of people doing the thing around your room, or listen to motivational videos every morning. We made a big list of good motivational youtube videos which sort of apply to most skills or things.
Motivation is a very generic thing, and the chances are you can listen to a motivational speech and it will apply to what you’re trying to learn in some way or another. So keep yourself in that motivated state.
But at the same time, remember that motivation doesn’t last. What’s more important (BY FAR) is committing to practicing for a certain period of time, every single day. That’s what gets you results. I’m motivated today but I might not be tomorrow.
But I know that no matter WHAT happens, I’m going to write for an hour tomorrow, and I’m going to practice Spanish. I might not feel like it, but I’m going to do it. And that commitment is what leads to being fluent in a years time.
34: Eat right
Again, I’m not going to lecture but it’s best for your health to eat a plant based diet as much as possible. This will give your body and mind all the vitamins and nutrients they need to function at optimal levels.
I’ve often spoken about when I went vegan before, and described it as being me, just on a really, really good day (every day). I haven’t got sick for years and I recover from workouts in a day or two compared to 3-4 days like before. It’s good for your mind, trust me.
35: Get enough sleep
Funnily enough, sleep is really important. But most of us don’t get enough sleep or it’s not high enough quality. Focus on going to bed when the sun goes down at night, and waking up when the sun rises. This is the natural way of things.
Your body and mind will function at their peak levels when you’re in tune with how the body was designed to work (funny that). But most people keep themselves up at night with blue light, screens, drugs and coffee. Go to bed on time, because it will make EVERYTHING else easier.
36: Constantly push forward
Just keep going. If you’re not feeling like practicing, just do it anyway.
Make sure you’re always doing the things that make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re always UNCOMFORTABLE while you’re practicing, then when you have to perform, you’ll dominate it.
Champions practice hard so that when the big day comes (whatever that means for you) you are ready, and you can perform. By practicing the uncomfortable things, you’ll always win.
37: Take breaks
Although we’ve spoken a lot about how you should focus and stay on track, sometimes you’ll need to take breaks. If you’re feeling like you’re just not making ANY progress and it’s becoming too much, consider taking a break from the thing for a week or so.
Now I should specify, you’ll really only improve when you’re practicing, but if you’re really struggling, allow yourself to take one week long break every year. This way you can recharge, and get back in the right mindset for doing the thing you’re trying to learn.
38: Improve your memory (Meta learning)
Your memory is one of the most amazing gifts you’ve been given. There are lots of ways of improving your memory, and I’ll go into them in detail in another post.
But for now, just know that you CAN improve your memory by practicing things like the linking method and memory palaces. There are also things you can take like Vitamin B6 which improves your recall to some degree. Practicing brain exercises and memory techniques will also help!
39: Use a nootropic
Here’s the thing. Nootropics are smart drugs designed to help you get that EDGE in your brain. They’re things designed to improve your mental and cognitive performance.
They work. I’ve tried many of them, and found that actually Mind Lab Pro works the best (natural, very effective). I’ve used Mind Lab Pro more or less every day for a year or so (with breaks at weekends I should mention) and it’s SUPER effective.
It helps me focus, concentrate better and get my work done at a rate I couldn’t imagine otherwise. And while I do get a small commission for every sale that gets made through that link, I’ve tried LOTS of nootropics. I’ve tried ones that haven’t worked, and so this is the BEST nootropic I’ve tried out of about 15-20 different brands.
40: Practice in lucid dreams
Lucid dreaming is the ability to become self aware in your dreams, and essentially DECIDE what to dream about. It’s pretty cool and I’ve written a LOT about it, on this site and my other one.
But the point is, you can use lucid dreaming to practice your skills, while you’re sleeping. This gives you extra time that most people are just using to count sheep. It’s been proven too, and it’s easy to learn. Read my guide on how to start lucid dreaming.
What skills should you learn?
So that was a BIG post. I hope you enjoyed it and got a lot of value from it. I wrote a big post about the skills we ALL need if you’re interested, if not here’s some ideas:
- Going vegan: Or at least plant based. This is the best and healthiest diet you could eat, and that’s been proven numerous times but beyond that, you’ll feel incredible
- Learn to meditate: Being able to shut your mind off and go back into your BODY is a hugely important skill which will help you take control of your life
- Learn how to make more money: Money doesn’t buy happiness, but LACK of money CAN cause unhappiness. Learn how to make more money so you can focus on doing the things you actually want to do
- Learn how to follow your heart: Most people don’t do this and they wake up one day when they’re 60 and realise they’ve wasted their life by doing what they were told. Follow your heart, trust me