Learn Faster With This Trick from Pokémon Go and Cognitive Science
Reduce the distance between milestones, and you'll go much farther. That's what I learned from a seasonal update to Pokémon Go's reward systems.
Pokémon Go's buddy system rewards you for hitting certain walking distance benchmarks. However, the distances were long for relatively small rewards.
Then a temporary update cut the benchmark distances in half.
Suddenly I found myself outside walking a lot more, and my friends had the same experience. Now that each milestone was more reachable, I was more motivated to move. I felt like each step mattered, so I was more willing to take steps.
The end result was that I traveled a much greater total distance than in the past.
This was a eureka moment.
I could apply this principle to other things, like learning certain coding skills (or really learning anything).
As an example, I had wanted to get good with HTML5 canvas for a while, but that sounded like a big goal so I let it sit. Eventually I tried shrinking the distance between milestones.
I told myself to code one circle. And I did. That was the momentum I needed. Soon I had built up to a glowing laser-pong game, gravity physics, an arrow flying through the air with an accurate trajectory, and more.
According to cognitive science, here are the main benefits of shorter milestones in learning:
Small steps help you stay motivated because each step feels more acheivable and therefore is more likely to get done. [Psychology Today]
Small steps improve retention because it's easier to remember stuff when there's less of it at a time. [Harvard guest lecture, Lifehacker]
Motivation and retention are common stumbling points for learners, so it's great to have a trick that can address both points.
If there's something you want to learn, try shortening your milestones. You might amaze yourself.