Founder’s Series: The Optimal Ratio of time allocated to Learning Vs Executing (Part 2 of 4)

In the first part of this 4-parts-series of articles, I have established the importance of finding out how to allocate your time as an Entrepreneur. I think the key to figuring this out is through trying, measuring, reflecting, and learning from others. 

I have identified these top 3 factors that I believe would help you figure out the optimal time ratio:

  1. the type of skill that you are learning, 
  2. your preferred mode of learning, and 
  3. the resources and opportunities available to you.

In this week’s article, I will be diving deep into the first point. 

1. The Type of Skill that you are learning

Trying to categorise skills into types prove to be very challenging to me. No matter how hard I had tried, I was still not able to come up with neat categories to classify the skillsets I think I had acquired after 32 odd years of existence. As a result, this article was left hanging for 4 weeks. It took me immense energy to clear up my schedule to get into the groove of writing again. This could just be an indicator that I need to read up more on the types of skillsets to be able to present this point more coherently. 

I hope that the reader would not take this as me bragging about my skillsets, rather, just a personal audit of my learning journey thus far so that I can better strategise where I should allocate more time in the next 70 years of my life (my goal is to live till 100-year-old). 

Currently, a chronological way of presenting my skillsets is what I deemed to be the clearest way to present my point. 


As the list is just too long (:P, not bragging, just reporting), I would like to focus on the 3 skills that I had devoted most of my attention on in my twenties.

1.1 Cooking + Eating to boost Energy Level

Cooking has always been my passion as early as when I was in kindergarten. The play area with a fully-equipped kitchen set was my biggest motivation everyday to complete my class assignment quickly so that I can be the first to rush there. 

I would always fantasise whipping up meals for my family whenever I was at the kitchen section in the departmental store. Unfortunately, the opportunities to learn and practise this skill was few and far between as my mum does not enjoy cooking and she has always been a working mum.

I could only read recipes and watch cooking shows in my teenage years to fulfil my fantasy then.  This restricted my skills acquisition to mostly just theoretical knowledge until I decided to eliminate meat-consumption in my diet when I was 21-year-old.

As the meatless culture had not caught on in Singapore back then, it was paramount that I had to learn how to cook in order to eat healthily. It had been more than 10 years and I am still enjoying every opportunity that I volunteered to cook.

In my opinion, cooking is a skill that leans heavier on the practice and execution side (80-90% of time should be devoted on execution) rather than passively consuming the theoretical knowledge (10-20% of time can be spent discovering new recipes and tips). We can learn to cook just by watching how others’ cook be it by attending a cooking class or watching YouTube videos

1.2 Coding

Coding was the most difficult skill that I had tried to pick up outside of a formal school setting in my twenties. It was also one of the most rewarding experience that was instrumental in building up my confidence in my twenties.

1.2.1 My Rationale for learning Coding

One of the key motivation to learn how to code was to save money. As my financial resources were lean in my early twenties, the only feasible way to bring my ideas closer to life is to build the minimum viable prototype (MVP) myself. I was also interested in learning more about the subject. I found it less time and energy consuming to pick up the skill than to convince people around me to be COMMITTED to work on the idea together. My network then was mainly made up of twenty-year-old fresh graduates eager to build up their resume and wanderlust experiences. Along the years, I had continued to try enlisting the help of my trusted friends but was mostly rejected along the way. I do hope that I would eventually be able to meet like-minded people to fulfil our dreams together.

At the point in time, I rationalised that even if the business did not take off, I would still be able to land a job in the Information Technology (IT) sector. Learning to code was the lower risk option for me in contrast to borrowing money from my skeptical, non-entrepreneurial parents to hire someone to build the website. 

In hindsight (at 32-year-old), I still think that it was a good investment of my time because of the confidence this experience invoked/evoked. 

1.2.2 My Optimal Time Allocation Ratio (in Hindsight)

Nevertheless, it was a crazy feat trying to learn so much all at once and I soon found that it was cheaper (from a Singaporean Entrepreneur’s perspective) and faster (if you have the budget) to outsource and hire someone from India or Pakistan to get things done, albeit at a risk of compromising the security of your intellectual property.

I had tried learning the skill in-house and outsourcing. I am open to both options whenever I want to focus on building and improving the technical product. As you can see, there are still many areas to improve on in this website and I am still committed to making it better. I hope that in the next few years, I would have more time and financial resources to fulfil this.  

Therefore, I am unable to give a conclusive advice on how you should approach this subject. I can only share that it was an arduous journey for me trying to pick up this new skillset and working part-time as a tutor to cover my living expenses in my late twenties. Every day, I would be wondering if I was wasting my time trying to understand and learn how to customise a website. The field of coding is far and wide as seen in this image below.



I was only learning a small fraction of the whole oasis. I felt like giving up everyday because it was a little like finding a needle in the hay. Somehow, I just persisted because I was too cheap to hire someone to do it for me. It took years for me to pick up a small fraction of the skillset and I am still at the beginner level right now.

If I were to learn coding from scratch again, I would still spend 50% of my time reading and watching videos before I try to customise the website. Self-directed learning, in contrast to learning in a school setting, requires more time at the onset to figure out what you should be learning. However, the autonomy that I had over my learning propelled me to persist in the journey instead of allowing my dreams to crumble in negative-thought pattern in a more competitive learning setting.

In order to help you make a more informed decision on whether you should also endeavour to pick up coding as an Entrepreneur if you would like to build a customised website, I have listed down some of the trades-off that I had taken to learn coding. 

1.2.3 My Opportunity Cost of Learning Coding in my twenties 

Not watching TV (which I was not really interested in my twenties.)

Not being able to travel out of Asia (which I was perfectly happy with.)

Eating mostly at hawker centres in Singapore (which I really miss right now as I am typing this in my chilly room in the UK.)

Having less time to earn cash in my twenties (which strengthen my frugal habits and would likely translate into seeking cost efficiency in the business.)

Essentially, I knew that the dream was more important to me than everything that I had listed above.

Lastly, I would like to share the last secret weapon (skillset) which had helped me navigate most of my struggles in my twenties in fairly good stride. 

1.3 Calming my mind/ Meditation / Emotional Regulation

I recalled my twenties as a turbulent time, especially my early twenties. I only felt a sense of quiet confidence when I hit 28-year-old. I remembered recounting this feeling to my long-time-friend over the phone and she felt the same way too.

There were so much new challenges in my twenties. It was the first time that I had to stand up to my father to protect my dream. It was the first time I faced a major “failure” in my life which helped me stay true to my inner calling. It was the first time I experienced a major heartbreak which left me damaged for many years.

Throughout all these challenges, learning to calm my mind was integral in helping me ride through the emotional storm. Through reading, I discovered the power of meditation, forest-bathing, nourishing our souls in music, and nurturing our hobbies. These habits had helped me to regulate my emotions, anxiety and depression. I have learned not to be too emotionally-driven and invested in my twenties.

I would continue to spend 10-30% of my time learning how to calm my mind while 70-90% of my time doing the activities that would strengthen my emotional quotient.

Next Week’s Article

I have zoomed in on 3 specific skillsets in this article and shared what worked for me. Everyone has different learning styles and preferences. In the article next week, I will be exploring how your preferred mode of learning may impact the optimal ratio of time allocated to learning vs executing.

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