Productivity: Watch, Doc, Do

How to learn just about anything quickly using this self-teaching technique.

When you have to learn something new and execute quickly with low margin for error, WDD is your best friend.

Over the years, I have had continuously relearn, rehash, and re-adapt my methods to respond to changes in the design industry as a whole at the drop of a hat.

Its called or and by the end of this article I sincerely hope that you are able to use it to from this day forward.

So what is WDD?

Critically WDD is a pattern that I use to quickly learn, internalize, and implement brand new skills with alacrity.

WDD framework for learning and executing essentially anything as quickly as possible.

When you use WDD, you forgo the constant grinding, follow-along, stop-starting, and staccato stair-stepping of traditional learning methods that force you match mental positions with the person teaching you.

WDD instead allows you to take a brand new skill, rip it apart, build your own mental model of it, and execute at bullet-train speed.

How does WDD work?

WDD is broken down into three phases that work in tandem to help you tear a skill apart down to the frame, understand exactly how it all fits together, and rebuild it in a way that adapts the approach to work for you.


The is the first, and by far the most crucial phase of WDD. In this phase you are observing the skill being taught to you with .

This is not the time for distraction, you are observing to learn as if your next meal depended on it.

You are not on Facebook, you are not side-surfing, you are not “muli-tasking,” and you are not splitting your focus whatsoever. You make the object of your learning observation your and you observe the absolute hell out of it while taking an insane amount of notes.

▸Split notes
▸Cornell-style notes
▸Voice memos

The biggest things you’ll want to focus on here are the and of the skill you are trying to learn, as typically these present the most challenges during execution in the real world.

An example of this would be programming in JavaScript:
is the correct command?
do you write it with the correct syntax to get it to execute properly?

I don’t care how good of a note-taker you are, you’re not going to catch everything even with absolute laser focus. If you come across something makes your “this is super important,” detector tick, or
on this later and get more information.

When you are learning something new, regardless of what it is, you will find that in practice you will use about regarding that skill to execute tasks about .

What this means is that a fraction of the total scope of skill is used far more than the skill as a whole on a regular basis.


Short for , this is the part after you are done watching, observing, and taking notes, where you formulate a synthesis of your findings.

This is where you are creating a synthesis of all of your observations that will become the scaffold of your eventual execution method.

If Sturgeon’s Law holds true here, as it does essentially everywhere else, and must be eliminated so you can focus on the .

Now is not the time for theory or a history lesson, if it doesn’t help you execute get rid of it.

▸“Fun” facts

along with anything that does not directly relate to the planning, preparation, and/or execution of the skill in question.

Once you have done this, you will have living document that you can use to reference, along with the memories of the skill you watched being done, which will allow you to execute the skill in a way that makes sense to you.


At this point, you’ve made it to the last phase, congratulations. This is the part where you’re going to get your hands filthy by jumping in feet-first and using your docs as a guide.

Check your docs early and often to keep your execution tight throughout your process.

As you move through your execution, keep your docs handy and know where certain pieces of information are within them so you can quickly access them and easily glean information on the fly.

The goal while doing is to take mental notes on any time you have to stop and wonder what you are supposed to be doing next. Identify pain points, note bottlenecks, and keep running through the process until you are done, or at least as done as you can get.

Fail fast, fail often, fail forward

This is the mantra of WDD, it is what this protocol encourages, and what allows you to get exceptional results in record time.

Failure is the beginning of success, not the end.

Whether it’s learning to how draw hands or how to design & implement complex network architecture, WDD can help you learn it.

So the next time you are looking to learn a new skill: stop what you’re doing, grab some paper, get focused, and watch, doc, do.

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UI/UX designer with over a decade of experience in the design industry.

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