Both of my parents were educators. Needless to say, learning was a valued activity growing up. Even during summers, my parents worked hard to balance creative and unfocused time with reading and learning time. Looking back, they did a good job of letting me goof around enough during summers while also driving me to be productive and actively learning.
As an adult, I sometimes lose focus on learning. With family, professional, and other personal commitments, time is a precious commodity and learning does not always get its fair share of my attention. I still love to learn, but I do find it difficult sometimes to be in the right mindset for learning. There is a reason school developed into the system it is today. I am not saying our school system is great or perfect, I am simply saying there is a purpose to the focused time set aside for learning known as school. It is hard to learn without applying some structure and strategy. When I look at my average workday, I realize I do not have much of a routine. I have to work hard to schedule time for myself and I do not always have the energy to take on the task of learning during my downtime.
Summers have become a good learning season for our family. My schedule seems to free up a bit when school is out of session. My wife and I try to take advantage of summers to expose our four children to new experiences and knowledge. I try to combine their learning with my learning. For example, one of my youngest daughters recently expressed interest in computer programming, so I did some research and ordered some books and worked with her to learn some basics. She learned and I learned. My other youngest daughter enjoys golf and is really taking to the sport now. We find ourselves spending more time at the driving range and on the course. To advance her skills and knowledge of the game, I am devoting more time to improving my game. I read up on and share tips and strategies on course management and how to best use driving range time with focused exercise and games. The list goes on and on, from raising animals through FFA and enjoying Boy Scout adventures.
For me, the key is to do my best at incorporating learning with the other important facets of my life. As I get older, it is becoming harder to compartmentalize activities and walk through life as a series of siloed experiences. It makes more sense to me to apply some structure and strategy to learning. One-on-one time between mentor and pupil is still preferred. Learning mid-morning or mid-afternoon seems to work best for our family. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, especially during summers, is critical to performance. And, sometimes downtime just needs to be downtime.
Learning does not always have to be geared towards your professional aspirations. The activity of learning is what is important. Through learning we give ourselves a chance to better ourselves and raise our standard of excellence. I am sure your employers welcome learning activities focused on your job tasks; however, I encourage you to broaden your learning horizons and mix it up. Besides, I know I would get bored and eventually burnt out on learning, if all I concentrated on was PSM-related bodies of knowledge. I love facilitating a PHA (e.g. HAZOP, LOPA, HAZID, and FTA) and I want to make sure we provide great service when it comes to relief valve sizing and PSM compliance audits; however, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.