How you decide what to focus on when learning something new?

aaronarney profile image Aaron ・1 min read

I struggle constantly with this. I want to learn everything. One day I'll wake up and decide I really want to dive into C but as I begin to prep, I talk myself out of it. The thoughts usually go something like this...

  • C would be really cool to learn
  • I should find a YouTube video that builds a simple project
  • (searches for a good video for 30 minutes)
  • (finds video)
  • (opens IDE/vim)
  • Wait, I probably should learn something more relevant to my day job if I'm going to be spending time on this today
  • (closes video, closes IDE)
  • goto 1, choose different topic

Some weekends I'll spend hours doing this with no progress. Most of the time I can convince myself that learning anything is always relevant, but it's hard some days.

I think my problem boils down to something quite simple. If I don't have a clear goal or project, it's hard for me to focus.

Does anyone else suffer from this problem and if so, how do you navigate it?


Editor guide

After dealing with that thing you mentioned for several years, I decided that a hard rule of mine is whether what I'm learning is going to be applicable in the near future and if it's going to be useful for something that I'm trying to make.

Dealing with too many interests, I've found this helps me guide my decisions and prioritize my learning path better.


I think alot of people suffer from this and one thing I have been able to narrow mine down to is the thought of all the things I have to learn. Recently, i have been trying to break things down into reasonable portions so things about doing them won't discourage me. For instance, i want to get better at algorithms. I simple picked an algorithm training tool, and decided to complete 1 algorithm per week. That's has actually helped me to stay on track. Its not long I started it but I haven't missed a week since i started.

Just spend some time breaking things down into smaller chunks. The give yourself realistic deadlines or timeframes so you don't get discouraged


That's awesome you have set your mind on tackling algorithms and have been keeping up with it!

I've tried similar methods in the past but not to much success. Perhaps I'll write out everything I know I want to learn within the next 3-6 months and try and make a calendar again. Thanks for the tip!


That's great. And remember to start small. It can be just once a week. Then gradually increase it. It's all about doing the barest minimum to ensure consistency. I am rooting for you