How I pushed my friend to learn 30 minutes per day – for a year

How much have you heard in life that you need proper education to get a job you’d really like?

I’ve heard it a lot. In fact, it’s programmed in people’s minds so much that almost every young person has the same fixed plan in life — join the university and once graduated, get the job that pays well. That’s great! We need well-educated college graduates. But why does the learning has to stop here?

Have you ever felt that you should get an additional university degree because the industry or field you’re in is not what you really want to do? Are you recognising that there are some skills required by the professional industry — but you don’t have them? Nearly every business and finance professional that I talk to admit that they should start learning programming and data analytics.

.. and this is where stops. Every single person understands that learning is something they should do, but very few actually start doing that. Usually, people don’t have enough self-discipline to keep themselves learning. Learning is hard, it takes time, and overall — who has the time to really go to university when you have a full-time job and maybe even a family to feed?

Why are so many people still stuck in thinking that university is the main source for acquiring knowledge? The alternative for university is online learning. And as always, both have their perks and downsides next to each other. Online learning is way more efficient for acquiring certain skills. The courses are usually split into bite-size lectures and provide often hands-on projects that students can pass per their individual schedules. University can’t be replaced yet in a reasonable way to gather valuable connections and acquire more analytical thinking — which is triggered by holding on-topic conversations with fellow students and working on home tasks that push you to collaborate with others and explore other perspectives – either you want this or not. And all this grows you as a professional even more than you might realise. The best combination is to really have both, but if you don’t want to opt-in for a university, being really active in social life and engaging at different networking events relatable to your interests can replace that of development.

Courses on online platforms such as Udemy cost around €15/each – despite the domain or industry. Each lecture has a length of 3-15 minutes, comes with additional written and video-format materials, and can be completed from wherever and whenever. In fact, online learning can be done through any digital platform providing online courses such as Coursera, Udacity, or anything that is presented in this post I’ve searched out for you. Udemy in my opinion provides the highest variety of courses and that’s why it has always been my first choice.

Sounds easy! So why am I telling you all this?

The thing is — self-motivation is simple in concept, but it’s not easy. What really matters is the execution. Ever heard about the saying “walk the walk to talk the talk”? — many people talk highly about all the things they’re planning to do, but most of them never get to any of them.

And this is where we arrive at the real topic of this blog post. This is a story of “University of Mariel: Case of Maris”. And before you even start to question about what the h*** it is, let me give you the background. Maris is a smart girl, always excited to learn new skills — and by coincidence, she’s a good friend of mine. She entered the master’s program and then decided to drop it because it wasn’t really what she ended up being passionate about. There also weren’t any alternatives that sparked her eye, and overall the idea of spending additional 2 years in school wasn’t something she was that excited about because she wanted to learn hard technical skills and any of the programs weren’t capturing it on such scale.

I heard her talking about data analytics so passionately — but given that she dropped actively learning more about it, I always felt that she is lacking this one final push to really get into that field. So, I decided to give that final push to her. I told her that in case she is serious about wanting to learn more about the domain, she should send a description of her ambition and goals to my email, and I will make sure that she will be brought a step closer to that.

On one day, this email arrived. And it was time to fill my part. I decided that this is a ‘go big’ or ‘go home’ type of moment and that it’s not the time to make her life too easy. So, I put together a 12-month learning program where she would commit to learning at least 30 minutes per each day — and yes, you read it right, for a whole year. Given that she had described to me her ambitions what she wants to do in life, I searched out a pack of Udemy courses that reflect her interests the best — the courses are focusing on learning Python, advanced Excel, PowerBI, SQL, and machine learning; while as well crucial other skills for succeeding in life, such as growth mindset and speed reading. The program itself allows her to take several 2-4 week-long breaks in every 3 months to get her mind off from learning for a while but get back to that then in a structured way that doesn’t allow her to give up that easily and keep learning itself sustainable. In fact, it’s easier if you’d read all the details from the screenshot of our program yourself, so check it out below.


Making this process formal by asking her to sign the terms and conditions made her accountable for the promises she’s giving and doesn’t allow her to give up on her goals. I, on the other hand, made myself accountable for supporting her throughout the whole process – so she always has somebody to turn to, share her excitement, and share her difficulties — and knowing that there is always this one person who will stand by her side no matter what. And in reality, if you think about that, I’m not doing really anything. I’m just there for her whenever she needs it. Yes, I’m monitoring how she’s proceeding with the program; yes, I’m providing constant feedback to her about her progress; yes, I’m meeting up with her and coming up with challenges every month that she has to accomplish to become even better in this field — but this is taking me a minor fraction of time compared to all the effort she is putting in. And all that was required was this one last push from my side to come up with a bit better-structured learning framework and her knowing that she always has somebody that she can count on.

In case you don’t know me then I’m a big fan of automated spreadsheets in Excel and Google Sheets — and of course, I had to build a well-looking dashboard interface that functions as a feedback system on the progress she is making, time estimation, self-reflection area with the comments section. Any such program on that scale is hard and comes with its ups and downs. Writing down the positive feelings from the course helps her to keep on going at times when it’s not as easy. Mapping down the negative thoughts makes it understandable for even herself that this is only a temporary feeling and can be overcome with time or extra work. All that she is doing is for herself, and seeing the progress through such a tracker helps her to stay consistent with learning — especially when visualising such small perks as how much she is ahead of the program just because she sometimes loses herself in learning and spends an hour or two on that instead of learning only 30 minutes.

Progress with comments.png

I know that there are so many people out there who just need this final push for getting back to the learning track. Dedicating 12 months to learning is heavy, and without a proper support system might not be sustainable. But what’s much easier is committing yourself to learn for 3 months in a row. And this is what I’m challenging you to do. In case you’re still reading this post, you must be a person who is eager to learn. And you likely acknowledge that keeping learning sustainable is hard. So I’ll make this easy for you – take this file that I have prepared for you from this link and set the same project up for yourself! The exact same project that I was doing for Maris.

Open the challenge by clicking on the picture.
Open the challenge by clicking on the picture.

Commit yourself to learn 30 minutes a day for 90 days. What would make it even better – find a friend who supports you and will always be there for you – and do the same for him or her. Becoming 0.1% knowledgeable every day makes you exponentially 9.4% better by the end of this experiment. You have literally nothing to lose by using 30 minutes of your time for coordinated and structured learning, but there is more than a lot to gain.

And please, let me know how it went for you! Reach me on LinkedIn, and let’s talk.

And of course, I made it even more special for Maris. As I wrote in the terms and conditions, all her answers were recorded and frozen to the bottom of the file — so whenever she looks at that, she remembers the “why” for starting with this and the feelings that she had. So she always keeps moving forward.


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