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Finding the Time to Learn

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Issue 10 – February 9, 2021

“Had we but world enough and time,” the poet Andrew Marvel famously wrote centuries ago. His mind wasn’t on learning per se, but his phrasing is easily transferable to our busy modern lives and our desire to to learn.

Often, time feels like the biggest challenge that adults face. We grow older, life happens – work, relationships, possibly kids. Our motivation to learn may decline, and it can seem much harder to find the extra hours, or even minutes we need. At the same time, we accumulate a lot of experiences that, perversely, may actually make us less available to learn.

“Shades of the prison-house,” to quote another famous poet. So, how do we bust out?

1: Make More Time

One approach is to do our best to make more time. As challenging as that may seem, the opportunities are all around us every day. I’ve highlighted a dozen of them here, and I’m sure you can come up with more. We just have to be conscious of them, be clear about our priorities and intentions, and reclaim time that is not being used well.

That’s in the day-to-day. Thinking bigger, the idea of an “adult gap year” has gained a lot of traction in recent times (Google it), particularly as the possibility of being a digital nomad goes mainstream. I’ll admit more than a little jealousy toward those who find themselves in a position to do it

A more modest idea, introduced to me several years ago by a mentor, is the “weekly sabbatical” – basically, carving out anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day each work week (not the weekend) to focus on your own development and self renewal. An achievable goal with some of the tips referenced above for reclaiming time.

2: Make More of Time

Finding time is one thing, using it well is another. Everything we can do to be mindful in our learning, on the one hand, and to focus, on the other, helps us to get more out of the time we have.

It’s important to recognize, too, that timing is important. As author Dan Pink discussed in one of his more recent books, there are times of day when we tend to be more productive and analytical (morning) and times of day when we tend to be more creative (afternoon). Your mileage may vary, of course, so use some mindfulness to tune into what works for you

3: Make Peace with Time

Of course, no matter how well we do with #1 and #2, “Time’s winged chariot” will always be hurrying near (Marvell again). Ultimately, we have to make peace with that.

Practicing patience and accepting (as much as you can) that learning takes time is an important step. Even those very small moments you are able to carve out from each day, each week, or even each month matter in the long run.

Stillness is another useful practice – one that can complement mindfulness well, and one that, I’ll admit, I need much more work on myself. (The source of that last link, by the way, is an organization founded specifically on the recognition that we have 1440 minutes in each day.)

In general, there will never really be “enough” time, but that recognition in and of itself may help free us from striving and struggling and allow us simply to enjoy the process of life and learning.

How’s that for a “woo woo” ending?

What’s your take?

I hope you find the perspectives offered here useful. Before we part ways for this edition, I’d like to encourage you to make a few minutes to reflect on your own efforts to find, manage, and make peace with time, and if you are so inclined, to hit reply and share any details you are willing to.

And, as always, if you have questions or I can be of help in any way, just let me know. Also, don’t forget that you can access past issues here.

Best regards,

Jeff

P.S. – You can find the source of the Andrew Marvel lines here, and the line from the second poet here. Personally, I’m a fan of memorizing poetry. You can find my thoughts on that here.

Thumbnail image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

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