Learning as an adult

“Of all the communities available to us there is not one I would want to devote myself to, except for the society of the true searchers, which has very few living members at any time.”

Max Born, The Born-Einstein Letters 1916-55

It seems as one gets older, the less free time you have. This time (for me) is normally used for personal progress (cultural, mental gains) and downtime (games, TV, books, gym).

In University, I had 16 hours of lectures a week and 6 hours of labs/seminars. During my Ph.D, I worked a similar amount. On average, this was just under 5 hours of worktime a day, with the rest essentially free. Not counting sleep, that gave me 10 hours a day of free time, with more at the weekend.

80 hours a week.

In my 30s (and in lockdown), I work 45 hours a week and spend the remainder of my time with my family. I try and put aside 1 hour a day for free time, and this is very rarely contiguous. For weekends, I try 2.

9 hours a week.

A whole order of magnitude less time than my 20’s. No wonder then, that the foundations of my career were all set in that period of my life. However, my drive to continue learning has not stopped, and I want to ensure I have a decent foundation for my next productive adventure.

There is, however, the problem that my eyes are bigger than my brain, as currently:

Books I am reading:

Coursera courses I am enrolled in:

Projects I have ongoing:

Knowledge is like a tree, once you have a solid foundation you want to branch out and learn as much as possible. In my case, the tree is a bit too spread out. This current reading list will most likely take me years unless I can achieve consistent focus. This is where techniques such as pomodoro can come into their own. An hour of focus in unattainable in a family context, but 25 minutes is much more so. However, this needs to be balanced against downtime, as this is also keeping you sane after working all week.

Currently my 9 hours per week is spread as such:

My plan for the next 6 months:

  • Finish Introduction to Mathematical Thinking
  • Finish How to Read a Book
  • Finish The book you wish your parents had read
  • Renovate a house

Discussion Points

  • What does your free time mix look like?
  • What techniques do you use to achieve focus?
  • How do we build learning communities in this environment?

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