I can’t learn something new without having some outcome in mind. Otherwise I’ll just keep on asking myself “why am I doing this?”
I’ll focus on just the things I need to learn in order to get to that specific outcome. I’ll be highly motivated during the process, but it may not be the most sustainable way to learn, as my understanding of the subject will be contextual.
If you’re looking to get a more thorough understanding of a subject though, there’s another very effective approach:
doing small studies.
When I got into 3D printing, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of variables. I decided that I would learn by doing these very small, focused studies. The ‘slicing’ app that came with the printer offered hundreds of settings, and instead of defeat by overwhelm, I just decided to try them all, one by one.
I created a simple shape to print, would read about what a specific setting is for (such as support, feed rate), then change that setting in the slicing software, and print. This way I could directly see the effect of that setting, and learn about what it does. I would then repeat this process for each setting. This was very enjoyable, and actually had me experience all these concepts, as opposed to just reading about them. Classic learning by doing.
After doing all these studies I tried a very complex print, it felt like I had superpowers. Simply from all the experience I had gained from these studies.
To be honest, I underestimated the joy of learning this way! And I’m convinced that getting these lower level details right will help me have a solid understanding of the bigger stuff. And a bonus: I can explain why something works the way it does. Which means I can teach others 🎉.
Do make sure that the studies you set out to do are mildly challenging. Are you getting bored? Make it a bigger. Getting really frustrated? Make it smaller.
Pick the learning strategy that’s the best fit for your use. Consider this another tool added to your toolbox.