Dave Hoover just raised an interesting point on personal improvement: Spend 50% of your working time on personal improvement. Basically I found myself in that blog post. Since about two years – since I have been asked for taking a leadership responsibility – I am constantly reading books in my spare time. Over the last year I started to read several mailing lists and blogs. I am thankful to have married a wife over the last year that is patient with me (I wonder how long she’ll stay that way).
What shruggs myself is the fact that Dave states it takes about five years to see the return on that investment. Five years seems to be a very long time. Reflecting over my life so far I must say, that I have spent more than five years already on improving personally. At the age of 15 I choose to lead a youth group at our local sports club. In my spare time I gave swimming lessons over the past thirteen years and also grew into the leader role at my sports club over the past 15 years. In the meantime – while making my diploma at the university – I was involved in three clubs at a time. Through all these I made great experiences in leadership and organisation. Over ten years I participated and helped to organise helpers for our season openings of our local open air bath. This was a great time and helped myself improve for my current job.
On the other hand I even worked for money at a local store during my university years. There I had to organise the order process for soft drinks, juice and later even alcoholic drinks. I had to organise according to market and seasonal demands and manage the surpluses. In the end there was a major rebuild of the store where I was highly engaged in. Over the years I had learned how to work together with my colleagues and contribute to critical work that is daily business at a local store.
All these experiences were a major part of the preparation for my current position. In the past I have been working with people, for people, sometimes even against people if I was convinced from the opposite. Taking some spare time now to support my journey towards mastery is just a little duty for me. Personally I just took out my calculator and tried to calculate the time that I might have left for my family with Dave’s proposal: One week has 168 hours, 6 hours per sleep each night, two hours for getting to work and back, two hours for eating, 40 hours of work, 20 hours for personal improvement leaves you with 42 hours of time you may spent with your family and for leisure activities like sports. This seems ok to me, but don’t blame me for my naive assessment of the situation. (My wife is working in retail sail and usually does not come home until 9pm due to this, so don’t try to project my situation onto you.) Take Dave’s point into account to at least try it out for a while. Personally I consider myself more of the former group of people in his statement:
I think it would be silly to try to force yourself to do it, you’d end up burning out. Really, I’m talking to two groups of people. To those who are already spending their spare time on becoming a better developer, I want you to know that your efforts will pay off, but understand that it will take between 5-10 years to see the most significant benefits of your efforts. To those who want to become a great developer but hold themselves back out of fear of failure or hard work, I hope to inspire you to give it a shot.
and Dave made me feel good about it.