April 23, 2012 Where is the line between learning and wasting time?
This post has two audiences in mind: students in high school and college and everyone in the working world.
To students —knowledge is power and while a student in high school and college, you have the unprecedented privilege to make learning your job. Sometimes you are the one paying for this education, while other times a biological or other benefactor will swoop in to pick up the bill. Students rarely know what they want while in school, so it’s naturally encouraged for students to explore various subjects to see what fits best. What mental pursuits make them the happiest (or do all mental pursuits make them miserable)? Wasting time is when the student ceases to learn, only gravitating to classes that hold no interest to them (easy A’s) or don’t take advantage of the class. Even though the student will start to receive pressure to tailor their education towards a desired career, ultimately, they are free to learn to their heart’s content.
Upon graduation, life isn’t so simple. Your job is your job, and all learning you do has to go towards improving your over all value in the job market. The articles you read (unless they’re done in the morning or evening) must pertain to your industry, or impactors on your industry. Even if they are related to your industry, they need to be lunch break activities as opposed to “whenever” reads. Seminars/events need to be justified from both a fiscal and long-term benefit perspective, not just “it’ll be fun!”
Why is it we limit the learning of those with a more fleshed out idea of what they want? My opinion is that we don’t, we just think we do. That same accessibility to knowledge can exist in the workingman/woman’s life, but balance must exist also. You are absolutely taking care of yourself (and subsequently your performance) when you read an interesting book review in the middle of your accounting job, just like looking into your stocks and reading up on your investments is fine when you’re in the middle of publishing job at Marie Clair. When you and your perspective is what the company hired, taking care of that perspective (however that’s done) is not a waste of time.
So when is learning a waste of time? Learning is a waste of time when you’re hired to perform a task that does not need external context like working in retail, a fast food joint, or a maid. All that matters is the present and physical experience gained. Do you get the job done? No? Why? If the answer is you were studying for a test/reading up on SEO, your boss will flip out. They’re not paying you to grow, they’re paying you to perform a task anyone could perform.
Have you ever been criticized for spending too much or too little time on personal development? What’s your take on education at work?