It was a bit of a loaded question that I posed to friends and followers on Twitter - “if you have 10 hours that you can dedicate to self-improvement in your profession, do you dedicate that time to getting better at the things you already know, or do you put the time into learning something new?“”
I didn’t get a lot of responses, but the ones I did get weren’t a surprise. They mostly revolved around the idea of “step away from the computer”, “get more exercise”, “spend time outside”, “unplug”.
All of those are great suggestions and I should heed the advice, but I’m interested in the cliched “20% time.” If your boss gives you one day each week to do anything you’d like related to your profession, you’re not going to say “Thanks! I’m going to sleep late, enjoy a long hike in the woods, read a book, and start cocktail hour around 3:30.” No - you’re going to explore some of the fringes of your knowledge base (at least you should if you want to keep the paychecks rolling in).
In my case, I know enough about 6-7 different technical areas to make things work and make a decent living. I feel comfortable with MS SQL Server, MySQL, Craft CMS, Laravel, WordPress, LAMP-based hosting, e-commerce (concepts, requirements and programming), and most PHP-based content management systems that if a client needs help in these areas I can jump in and get the job done. I don’t consider myself an expert in any of them, but on a 1-10 scale where the average technophobe is a 1, I’m a solid 7.
So when the opportunity to get better is available I struggle with the decision of “push myself to an 8 in X or start at a 1 in Y.”
In my case, I’m taking the “start at a 1 in Y” approach. There are too many other technology paths to grow stale in what I already know.
Every 3-6 months a new “OMG YOU NEED TO BE USING THIS PACKAGE” seems to pop up out of nowhere and the lemmings shift their focus to that shiny new toy. I’m not going to fall for that. I’d prefer to jump into something every 12-18 months after something has been around for a while and seems to have developed a solid foundation.
With that in mind, my 20% time will be spent on a a couple programming languages and concepts - Elm and React/Redux.
I’m looking into Elm because I like the higher-level, functional programming concepts. I’m looking into React because … well, because it seems like the entire world is looking into React and I feel like I need to jump onboard (not quite lemming-like … I hope)
I might keep a running account of my learning experiences. For now, I’m satisfied to have a direction and a decision.