Learn or Create—What’s the Sweet Spot?

Lifelong learning is a gift, isn’t it? But what if we spend so much time learning that we don’t create anything?

I read a shocking statistic.  It said we should spend two-thirds our time creating and one-third our time learning how to create.  Stated differently, we should spend two-thirds our time doing and one-third our time learning.

I cringed.

I’ve spent a decade reading hundreds of books.  I learned highly personal details about many of the bookstore staff across multiple bookstore locations.  One staff member reported that my recorded history showed I spent over $16,000 on books in a relatively short time.  My home had so many piles of books that I was labeled a hoarder, even though I gave boxes of books regularly to The Diabetes Association.  And I was often attacked on Amazon by commenters accusing me of being “a paid professional book reviewer.”

But based on all that knowledge, I produced next to nothing.

So, if you’re like me—a book hoarder—or if you’re someone on the other end of the spectrum who creates endlessly without much learning, how can you find the right balance?

Here are ways to find the 1/3rd learning to 2/3rd doing sweet spot:

Learn by doing.  Doing is a form of learning unto itself.  Perhaps doing is a higher form of learning because it’s active, not passive.  Painting a picture is doing, but it also requires learning.  So, perhaps break the task into chunks.  You might start by learning how to draw on canvas.  Spend 1/3rd your time learning how to draw and 2/3rds actually drawing.  Then learn how to paint with oils using the 1/3rd to 2/3rd rule.  Once you master painting with oils, move onto acrylics.  That’ll send you further along the road of mastery.

But how do you time manage the 1/3rd to 2/3rd ratio? It’s simple.  If you have an hour a day dedicated to drawing, spend 20 minutes learning how to draw and 40 minutes drawing.

Learn something that will enable you to create.  If you want to write fiction, read fiction and how-to-write-fiction books.  If you want to become a marketer, read books or take courses on social media marketing.  If you want to create fine art, read books or take courses on how to paint.  Consider reading and taking courses on topics that will help you create something special.  Of course, there is value in leisure reading, but why not focus that reading on something worth creating?

Create a project that requires learning to complete.  You might want to climb the side of a building, not that I’d recommend this.  One friend of mine wanted to climb a tower and have the media televise him.  But had he been extra serious, and perhaps cautious, he might have taken courses or read books on climbing technique.  Another friend wanted to become a chess master.  He studied books on chess so well that he won tournaments.  And then I started reading his books, too.  Consider creating a project and start learning and doing the 1/3rd to 2/3rd ratio way.

Make time for doing.  This is what is called a hobby, but can also be a way to learn skills you may need for achieving a dream.  Simply build in time for doing each day.

If you could learn 1/3rd the time and produce 2/3rd the time, what a glorious life you’d lead.  However, academia requires you spend most of your time learning.  As a caveat: an essay may take up to twice as long to research as it may take to write.