How To Balance Learning And Doing

There’s a reason Nike’s slogan isn’t “Just learn it.”

Because learning is a trap.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m obsessed with learning and believe it’s super valuable.

That’s why I spend hours each week compiling and sharing the things I learn in my For The Interested newsletter.

But as valuable as learning is, it will never be as valuable as doing.

It’s not learning that will create change, build momentum, and make things happen for you— it’s doing.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Doing may be more valuable than learning, but learning is more dangerous because it’s safe.

Learning is a pursuit that comes with almost no risk — the time you put into it is essentially all upside with little risk.

This makes learning tempting.

Learning is tempting because it’s hard to “fail” at it. This also makes it an attractive place to hide from the more important work of doing — work that likely will include failure.

The time we spend learning makes us feel like we’re working hard, convinces us we’re progressing toward our goal, and wraps us in the comfort of not needing to risk our confidence, ego, or dreams.

It’s safe. Too safe.

While learning should always be a component of how you work toward your goals, you’ll find more success more quickly if you approach your work with a doing mindset instead of one centered on learning.

Here are a few ways to do that…

Spend 80% Of Your Time Doing

This is the easiest way to avoid falling into the quicksand of learning.

Write down all the ways you spend your “work” time over the course of a week and categorize them into two categories — one for learning and one for doing.

Many activities will fit in both categories, but consider which element is more dominant within that activity and force yourself to put it into that category only.

A couple examples:

What actually happens in that weekly department meeting you spend an hour in every Monday?

Most likely it’s more about learning and sharing information than it is about anything actually getting done so that would fall into the learning category.

All that time you spend reading books and listening to podcasts about how to be a better writer? That’s learning time.

It’s likely less valuable than time spent actually writing which would fall into the doing category.

Once you break down how you currently spend your time by category you will be able to see a snapshot of where your focus is.

Most likely you don’t spend close to 80% of your time doing — chances are you spend the majority of it learning.

If you can flip that, you’ll make much more progress toward your goals and do so at a much faster pace.

To Create Things, You Have To Do Things

Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, you’re an entrepreneur.

We tend to think of entrepreneurs, artists, and innovators as the only people who build things from scratch and bring them into the world, but that’s not correct.

Everybody, in every single job, must also create things.

Just because you’re a part of a large team in a large company doesn’t mean you’re not a creator.

No matter your role, you need to create ideas, processes, improvements, and other “stuff” every single day.

You need to make things happen where they otherwise might not.

And that means you need to “do.”

Time spent learning can be helpful, but it won’t actually bring anything in to the world. It’s the doing that does that.

When you acknowledge this reality, your mindset will shift to see time spent doing as infinitely more valuable than time spent learning.

Remember: Your job, mission, and purpose is not to learn — it’s to do.

Even the most dedicated and passionate learners in the world discover their accumulated wisdom is only valuable if they put it to use.

It’s the things you do that MAKE the things you learn valuable.

The Best Way To Learn Is To Do

Ok, here’s where it gets ironic.

It turns out the best way to learn something is to do it.

All the studying in the world can only take you so far — you’ll never know as much about a subject as the person who is an actual practitioner of it.

So rather than push back against the concept of spending more time doing than learning, understand it’s a false dichotomy.

The truth is 100% of the time you spend doing things is also time spent learning things. “Doing” time pays double dividends.

The same is not true of time spent learning.

That time, while valuable, does not incorporate doing.

It actually subtracts from the time you’re able to commit to doing, which in turns slows the progress toward your goal (and arguably slows down your actual learning as well!).

Every choice we make with our time is an investment so you want to invest yours in the things that generate the biggest returns and doing pays double what learning does.

Stop Reading This Now

I’m thrilled you’ve given your precious time and attention to read my thoughts about learning vs. doing, but I don’t want to take up any more of it.

Because reading posts like this falls into the learning category and as I’ve just explained — that’s not the best use of your time.

So stop here and go do your thing.

You’ll learn more that way.

Good luck!