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.

Shorten your milestones and you'll go farther.

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:

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.