Small Changes for Future Success
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple ancillary conversations with friends about time and how we use it. The first was on a walk from my hotel to the convention center during Tableau Conference. A friend and I were discussing the new Screen Time feature in iOS 12.0 that tracks and conveniently displays how much time the user has spent on his or her iPhone. He mentioned that the results and insights were both shocking and slightly depressing at the same time. Fortunately, he’d used that data to make some changes in his life, and was happy with the results to date. After making a mental note that I probably needed to review my usage too, I filed the conversation away.
Then earlier this week, I was talking with a colleague about how I work in Tableau during the workday, then go home and after my kids are in bed, end up playing in Tableau in the evenings. In between letting me know that I was a bit crazy and maybe needed a hobby, he lamented that he didn’t have the time to spend playing in the tool like I did. I let it go in that conversation, but some of his comments stuck with me.
Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “play.” Or perhaps I should have qualified that I only view it as “playing” in the tool because I am working with the data that I want to work with, creating the visualization types that I want to create and enjoying the process to a point that calling it working or learning does it a disservice. Additionally, I probably should have explained how I’m not “spending” this time, but instead “investing” it.
First, a bit of background. Most evenings, after the kids are in bed, my wife and I settle into the living room and turn on the TV. In between or during shows, we talk and enjoy spending time with each other. We’re both multitasking to some degree, alternating our attention between one another and whatever show happens to be on. I thought back to a couple years ago, and remembered how my wife and I would spend this time balancing TV, conversation and using our iPads. Thinking about the Screen Time feature, I’m really glad it wasn’t around back then.
Over the past year or so, I’ve added my laptop to the routine, shifting my focus between our conversation and whatever project I’m working on in Tableau, typically with less attention paid to the TV. Without compromising my relationships, or disrupting my typical routine, I’ve been able to find time that I can use to polish my skills all while enjoying the work. For quite some time, I’ve thought of this as an investment of my time. While sometimes I waste a bit of time chasing a dataset or viz that doesn’t work out, I’m constantly learning and developing my skills regardless of the outcome. These are the same skills that make me marketable either to my current employer or down the road in my professional future.
The key here, at least for me, is that the changes have been small – I’ve not found a magical 25th hour in the day, I’m not losing sleep, and I’m not sacrificing important activities or relationships. I’ve simply reprioritized my free time, and am now investing it instead of spending it. I’ve made small changes to my daily routine to take the steps to do what I think is necessary to set myself up for long term success. Similar to any investment, my returns may vary, but mostly I’m playing the long game.
While shooting for the long game, there are some short term gains that I’ve seen. The time and effort that I put in on a regular basis has shown demonstrable benefit; I am able to leverage the skills that I’ve developed while learning, and I think that there is a huge positive in challenging yourself to think creatively. With regards to the long term benefit, only time will tell what opportunities I can make for myself, but long term investments have historically been pretty solid.
How about you – do you spend or invest your time? Could you make some minor changes to your routine that could put you on the path to bigger and brighter things?