I was very excited to join a self-learning group for Ruby and Selenium last month. In the first week, I did my share of self-study and attempted the assignments with fair amount of sincerity and enthusiasm. Week 1 was a success. Second week too I did fairly well in terms of commitment and learning. But in week 3 I had a break in routine due to travel and this put a wedge in my self-learning cycle. Even after returning to normalcy, I couldn’t find the motivation to get me started once again, this confused me. The worry that I would fall behind the group and will have to cover a lot of ground in a short term added to my cup of worries. But instead of taking action I kept worrying!
Tip1: Don’t let the work pile expand beyond your capacity to tackle it in the given amount of time. Sometimes you have to postpone tasks but its better to use the mantra ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ 1
Finally, I set myself a deadline and decided to dedicate X hours for the study. I settled down in front of the laptop with a hot cup of coffee and sufficient enthusiasm to kick start the ‘event’.
Tip 2: It is important to mentally prepare yourself first before taking action.
I started by reading the group emails, they were one too many, each stating the progress made accompanied by technical discussions. The discussions seemed alien to me and the group progress made my enthusiasm fade. I took a deep breath and started from the start. Patiently, I read through each of the mails, clicked every link in them. Opened every attachment and followed every instruction in them. This was to get me familiarised with what was going on.
Tip 3: Overload of information cause a heavy head. Don’t try to understand all the information the first time, instead simply keep reading. Your brain is smart so while you are reading, it will sort, organize and queue the data.
To say that I was confused is an understatement. I hit roadblocks while following the instructions, my heavy head prevented me from ‘searching’ for solutions, and I figured that I needed hand-holding. Thankfully help was just a chat message away as my group friends were online.
Tip 4: Sometimes, when you are badly stuck, u need a hand to pull you out. It’s OK to ask for help.
I was now on Level 2. The task on hand was known. I made a rough estimate for the task completion. Things were looking fine until a new wave of confusion swept through. Questions started popping in my head as I followed the instructions mechanically. I wanted to know the theory behind the practical.
Tip 5: Questions are good. Do not ignore or silence the inquisitive mind. Note down your questions however basic they seem. They may just open up a new door of information.
So, I broke off from the terminal window and opened the documentation site. I love user guides. I feel protected in their presence. They show you the way when you are lost. This is exactly how I felt when I saw the contents of the user guide site, http://seleniumhq.org/docs/index.html. I have now decided to read the guide first and then do the exercises. I like to know how deep the water is before jumping in. Reading the user guide will help me gauge the depth and breadth of the task.
Tip 6: Each individual has a unique style of study. Some like to skim through the chapter while others may start highlighting the main points in the first read. Identify your style and study accordingly.
After numerous breaks and couple of hours, I think I have just about ‘warmed-up’ for the main study. Technically, my progress today has been negligible, but this dedicated effort was required to align the mind with the task. I intend to keep posting about this interesting journey as I believe that most of struggle to keep commitments and to concentrate. This simply leads to feeling of guilt and displeasure which is detrimental in the long run.
Tip 7: Success is not always about the marks you score or the money you earn. Getting back on track is also success. Measure your success/progress in quantity and quality, both.
 Magnus Magnusson, the former presenter of BBC TV's Mastermind, was known for his catchphrase "I've started so I'll finish" on the long-running quiz show.; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6239745.stm