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How to keep learning while working, Part 1: It's hard when you have a life.

I have always been someone who loves learning. I thought myself to code and built my first website before attending any programming class at school. While at school, I always tried to learn more than what teachers gave us. I would go on to read from multiple sources and browse the internet to find additional materials that would give me an edge over the rest of my classmates.

After finishing school, I brought that same mentality to work. Yes, learning new things is always fun but that isn’t the reason why I do it. For me, learning is a necessity. At work, I thought it was our duties as professionals to spend that extra time to learn just like professional athletes spend time practising at the gym. That’s why I couldn’t understand when some people told me they didn’t have time to learn a new technology or to work on some side projects to acquire new skills.

When I started working full time in January 2017, my then girlfriend now wife was still completing her studies miles away from me in Russia. Not having her around allowed me to spend more time learning after work. There were days when I would remain at the office up until 11 p.m. to work on some side projects or to follow an online course. Even on weekends, when I wasn’t spending time with friends, I would work on a side project while watching a game of basketball. I was always in a constant learning mode because I believed that was the only way to remain on top of my game.

But things started changing in July 2018. My wife completed her medical studies and joined me in Canada. As we started living together, the need to make some changes to the way I was living before became evident.

The late nights at the office were the first to go. Obviously with my wife at home, I couldn’t afford to stay that late at the office. After that, I needed to cut back on the number of hours I spend working on weekends which were basically the same number as on weekdays.

There is no need to say these changes greatly impacted the time I spent learning outside work. Nevertheless, I could still find some time here and there that was more than enough for me to keep up with new developments in my field. And when I needed some focused time to work on an online class, I would take one or two hours on weekends to do it. But things were about to get a lot harder than that.

In May 2019, we welcomed a third member of our small family. People already warned me that raising a child was a full-time job on its own. But I didn’t grasp the full extent of that. With my son in the mix, it got extremely hard to find time to keep learning outside work, even on weekends. I put to rest all my side projects. I stopped taking online classes and basically for the next three months or so that followed, I didn’t learn anything new outside work.

Now I was starting to understand what happened to people who once told me they didn’t have time to work on side projects or to learn after work: Life happened.

For someone like me, who has always considered learning as a necessity, it was a tough pill to swallow. I feared my career would stall while I still had so much room to grow. I couldn’t let that happen. It wasn’t an option. I had to find ways to make it work. I mean I knew a lot of people who seemed to have both successful careers and successful families. How did they make it work? I had to find out. I wanted to know how they found time to keep growing while still maintaining a good work-life balance. So I went and asked them.

The answers I got were both insightful and unexpected. They shaped my approach to learning at work. And I can’t wait to share them with you in the next article of this series on how to keep learning while working.

Until next time,✌🏾