It is said that you should never stop learning. As someone who works in education, both academic and training, I know this to be true. What surprises me is just how much time really needs to be dedicated to learning in order to make the desired level of progress in professional pursuits. Now, I’m not here to be negative about this, or to imply that this type of time investment is tedious or unattainable for most, but this observation does lead me to a rather scathing criticism.
The criticism that I have is for our current sense of productivity. We feel like we must accomplish this and that in any given day. Doing so means we’re productive, right? Doing so means we get paid, true? And, doing so means that our employers will rate us highly on our annual reviews, correct? Forget the fact that I think annual reviews are a piss-poor evaluation system for workplace performance, and I’m still left with the conclusion that most everything we do professionally is a waste of time. Activities that could be automated or outsourced to others looking for work, projects that have great optics internally but no KPI impact outside of individual departments, and countless other examples of time wasters abound.
I just gave a continuing education presentation at Full Sail University on how to succeed by doing less and failing more often. Within that presentation I gave the standard advice to use the Pareto Principle to shift focus away from the 80% of your work that only nets 20% of the results, and to reverse Parkinson’s Law. that work will expand to fill the time allotted, by simply reducing the amount of time given to work. But what is to be done with the saved time? My suggestion was to make what I call progressive time investments.
Progressive time investments are projects that aim to achieve as many desirable traits at one time as possible: time savings, earnings boosts, costs reductions, etc. They take large amounts of time, and this is why saving time on your daily maintenance work is so important. Much of the time soent on these progressive time investments should be spent learning. Let’s say that again, much of the time spent on progressive time investments should be spent learning.
If my assertions are to be followed, than that means that one of the most significant work tasks should be to learn new tools, technologies, systems, or ideas in order advance our workflows. We should be learning what we, nor any of our co-workers, know how to do in order to create a tool or system that automates, re-engineers, or advances the ability to work.
Think about your own week. Is this how you spend your time? Or, are you constantly running around trying to check off some utterly bogus to-do list that doesn’t generate any real results beyond convincing your employer or clients to issue your paycheck? Paychecks are important, yes, but they’re not the reason we’re in business.