The Most Important Hour for Growth
In my last post, How to Get a Great Investment on Time Spent Learning, I shared how important it is to practice the fundamentals of your craft. Specifically in the field of software engineering. This concept can apply much more broadly, far beyond just software.
I think that most of us would agree that growth in our field of endeavor is important. But it may not be so obvious as to how to go about it.
It takes dedicated time and focus. It’s helpful to have a system to make it easier. In this post, I want to share my number one technique for learning and growth.
Several years ago I was in Charlotte, North Carolina staying with friends for an event. The friend I stayed with was the director of the Charlotte office for an HVAC company. He shared that, years ago as a technician, he would often show up to work early and sit in his truck reading technical manuals before starting the next job. He credited this practice with a lot of his success and advancement in the company.
That story stuck with me. So I have incorporated some version of this practice into my professional life.
So how does this look for me? Well, first I’ll describe the ideal version of how this works, the one I strive for, then I’ll share the actual version of how it plays out.
In the ideal version, I show up to work an hour early. That’s every workday. Five days a week. And I use this hour for learning. That could be reading a book, working on a technical course, listening to lectures, reading articles, or working on a project meant to practice a skill.
In the actual version, I occasionally do everything just described. More often, I maybe get there thirty minutes or fifteen minutes before work. Sometimes I’ll just study at home for a bit before heading to work. Sometimes, I have no time at the start of the day, so I might end the day with a little learning time. And sometimes… not at all.
Admittedly, I’m inconsistent.
But, I do this more often than I don’t do it.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, observed that “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
This practice is my attempt at systematizing learning and growth into a habit. Something I can fall back on and just do, without thinking too much.
There is so much to learn. Everything keeps changing. Especially in any technology-related field. Which is virtually all of them at this point. Keeping up is just table stakes.
I’ve found that this technique, even when practiced imperfectly, has helped me adapt to the ever-changing landscape of my field. I offer it as a suggestion and hope it’s helpful.