Peer Mentoring Inaugural Session

Today I had my inaugural peer mentoring session with an industry colleague (who I shall refer to as my ‘peer’ for the remainder of this post).  I met my peer when I attended a one day course he facilitated several years ago, and I subsequently engaged him for some coaching.  We remained in contact when the coaching arrangement ended and continued to meet informally face-to-face two to three times a year.  We both work independently, with some overlap in our professional circles although our service offerings are quite distinct from one another.  Apart from the common challenges and opportunities of working independently, we have discovered an affinity in values and outlook that has created trust and a sense of mutual support.  In a way we have been informally mentoring each other for at least a year.  As we considered how to stay in touch during my 2018 travels I recalled the positive experience I’d previously had peer mentoring with a colleague who lived remotely from me, and suggested that we enter a similar arrangement.


The key thing we did in today’s session was to discuss our expectations of our mentoring arrangement and how we could best support each other.  My key need is for accountability to help me achieve my most important goals.  I have always found that telling someone else I will do something increases the likelihood that I will get it done.  Having said this, I tend to take on too much and would like my peer to challenge me regarding whether I am taking on more than I can deliver in a given period.  (One action I accepted from my peer today is to prepare a project plan for Quarter 1 to check my capacity to achieve all my goals, and ensure that I’m allocating regular time to business development activities.)  My final expectation is that my peer will help point out blind spots in my thinking, particularly those that could undermine achievement of my goals.

Structure – A Light Touch

We’ve agreed to meet for one hour each month via videoconference.  While we didn’t explicitly discuss allocation of time or agree a specific agenda, we did agree to check in at the start of the session regarding the progress we each made on the goals / tasks we nominated as most important in our previous session.  I expect we will then spend roughly equal time in the ‘mentee’ role using each other as a sounding board on whatever issue or question we each want to explore.  It’s up to each of us to take personal notes during the session.

We did not make any explicit agreement as to how we would stay connected between sessions.  However, given our existing relationship I expect we will exchange some messages or emails to provide each other updates and share resources.

The confidentiality of our discussions is essential, and has always been the case between us.  We did acknowledge this briefly today, even though it was already understood between us.

Monthly Priorities

Before today’s session I sent my written vision statement and goals for both 2018 and the first quarter of the year to my peer.  My peer has committed to send me his written goals this week.  We identified our key goals and tasks for the coming month as a means of increasing our accountability for achieving these.

My work priorities in the coming month are to:

1)  Deliver a keynote presentation I’m delivering to an internal professional development conference at University of Wollongong on 15 February on the topic of ‘future-proofing yourself.’  The objective of the presentation is to motivate participants to actively manage their own learning and provide them with practical ways of doing this.  I need to complete preparation and practice for this session.

2)  Commence facilitation of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) Social and Collaborative Learning Essentials course online on 21 February.  This is the first time I’ve facilitated this eight week course so need to familiarise myself with the content and be ready to deliver several webinars and facilitate the on-line interaction in Curatr.

What Mentoring Arrangements Do You Have?

Mentoring arrangements can take many forms, and I’m curious as to what others have in place and what works well for you.  Please post a comment to explore this question.

Note that if you are a member of the AITD note that applications for their mentoring program are open until 16 February 2018.  I have participated as both a mentee and mentor in this program and found it very valuable.

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Quality and Impact – Making it Personal

I moved out of my apartment two days ago.  One of the last things I did to prepare for my year on the road was to give away my fridge.  I gave it away for free to a stranger by posting it on Gumtree (an Australian based trading site).  Despite it being a very busy week I made the effort to clean the fridge thoroughly before it was collected.  I removed every shelf and washed it, wiped all the inside and outside surfaces, cleaned every food crumb from the seals.  I imagined how much the person receiving the fridge would appreciate that it was clean and ready to use.   When the task was complete I silently thanked the fridge for the service it had provided me (I really did – it has been part of my ritual of letting go of most of my material possessions over the past two months).

I won’t pretend to have been fully present while cleaning the fridge.  I was thinking about why it was important to me to clean the fridge.  In part it was personal pride and wanting to make a good impression on the new owner.  The Golden Rule was also in operation – treating the new owner as I would like to be treated.  However, my sense of connection with this chore went beyond that.  I was reminded of two books that have influenced how I approach both everyday activities and my work.

In my early twenties I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig for the first time.  Using the narrative of a fictional 17 day motorbike journey, Pirsig explores the meaning and concept of quality.  It was probably my first exposure to mindfulness – to being fully present with a task or activity (despite my mind wandering while I cleaned the fridge).  I recall being struck by the extent to which the main character was in the moment with not only the task of maintaining his motorbike, but other experiences on his journey.  He was also intensely interested in the detail of things he was working with.  I’m unsure whether the book shaped my values or resonated with existing values.  What it clarified and solidified for me is a sense of care and connection with the projects and tasks that I take on.  If I take things on I want to do them well and put a lot of effort into being of service and delivering valuable outcomes in my work.

Linchpin by Seth Godin is the second book I was reminded of.  I read this more recently, shortly after it’s release in 2011.  The central idea in Linchpin is that anyone can make a significant impact regardless of their position, how much they like their job, or any other factor.  Linchpin is about the impact of looking for the opportunity to make a difference, to make a contribution of some sort simply because you want to bring your best self to the things you do.  Every now and then I get great service in a shop, or a bus driver that drives extra-smoothly and greets passengers in a friendly way, or coffee that has clearly been made with care and attention to detail.  In a world where most service is ordinary it’s not hard to stand out simply by caring about what you do and seeking to do it well.  An attitude like this creates opportunities.

The themes of these two books are similar, although expressed in different ways.  I felt content as I looked at the clean fridge and thought about what it symbolised.


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Opening Space for People to Tell Their Story

One of my goals in 2018 is to find a new town to live in as I travel around the east coast of Australia.  I’ll be covering a lot of territory with my daughter, driving from place to place and staying in Airbnb accomodation for eleven months.  Our plan is to stay in most places one week – occasionally a little less, and occasionally a little more.  I’ve been thinking about how we can learn about life in the towns we visit and figure out what it might be like living there.  One of the most important ways we can do this is to talk to local people and create the space for them to tell us their stories about their life in the town.

Thinking about how to elicit people’s stories reminded me of a day I spent with Laura Overton of Towards Maturity in early November 2017.  She was visiting Sydney, and I introduced her to two Learning and Development colleagues that I had worked with previously.  During our conversations with these two people I learned new things about them as a result of the way Laura opened up the space for them to tell their story.  She was genuinely curious and had no agenda other than to listen and find out how they thought and worked, and what influenced them.  I was so impressed that I made a video about this experience, and am sharing it on my Working Out Loud page for the first time today.




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Using Way Of Life App to Build my Routines

I’m working on embedding updated daily and weekly routine.  During 2017 I created a checklist in Excel to remind me of actions I wanted to build into my routine and to track completion.  At the start of the year I tracked completion directly in Excel, but found this inconvenient and my tracking was haphazard.  Then I moved to printing out the template and keeping it by my bed where I would manually check it off before bedtime.  This had the disadvantages of:

  1. not being mobile as I wasn’t carrying the checklist with me so couldn’t use it to prompt action during the day,
  2. reminding me of what I had not done immediately prior to going to sleep which was creating mental traffic when I should have been calming down for sleep, and
  3. slower manual calculation of completion statistics and trend tracking over time.

Manual tracking in bullet journal

When I started using a bullet journal in October I glued a hard copy of the template into the bullet journal.  I also used my bullet journal to list most important daily tasks so carried it with me and referred to it frequently during the day.  This addressed the first two disadvantages of having the printed list standalone, but not the third disadvantage which related to manual tracking versus electronic tracking.

In preparation for my year on the road (which starts in one week from publishing this post) I decided to stop using my bullet journal two weeks ago.  I had previously used an app called Way of Life to help build and track my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and Networking routine.

Routine list in Way of Life

It was very quick for me to set up a list of the activities on my routine checklist in the app and I was able to start tracking them immediately on my iPhone.  I track completion progressively during the day using a visual interface.  Every item on the list is marked as done (green), not done (red), or skipped (grey).  The skipped entry is useful for actions with a weekly frequency rather than daily frequency.  Whenever I reach three consecutive days of ‘done’ against an action I get visual and audible feedback – reinforcement of maintaining a good ‘run rate’.  Skipped days are not counted in this run rate tracking.  While I like getting this feedback this feature can be turned off.

I can view completion trends over time in the app.  Time interval for this graphical reporting can be set at  6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year or 2 years.  The trend can be viewed for either all actions on my list or specific actions.  A image of the graph can be sent via email, but I don’t think the data can be exported for further manipulation outside of the app.

Reporting Options


One disadvantage of the app is that if I delete an action from my checklist I lose the data associated with it.  Hence there is an element of transience which I’m

While I’m only in my second week of using the app again I notice that I am completing more of the actions in my routine list.  Combined with ease of use and mobility this means the app is working to help me get into regular habits with my routine and fine tune it over time.


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Onboarding Program Components – A Diagram

Yesterday I facilitated a design workshop for an induction program.  The group I worked with are learning coordinators in Supply Chain at a beverages manufacturer.  Each participant works at a different production or distribution site.  Every site currently has it’s own approach to induction of new operators.  Some of the coordinators recently started updating their induction program and materials, but were working on this independently for their individual sites.  An opportunity was identified to develop a common program, and I was asked to facilitate a workshop to kickstart the design process.

I asked the manager who engaged me what induction meant in the organisation, what was in scope of the Supply Chain induction program, and how it integrated with others aspects of the on-boarding process.  As this was unclear one of the workshop objectives was to clarify what elements the on-boarding program the coordinators were responsible to design and deliver.

I was hoping to find an article or resource on the internet that clearly defined on-boarding, induction and orientation, and the relationship between them.  I found a fairly common view about on-boarding, but substantial variation in what constituted induction and orientation.  Rather than spend a lot of time explaining the terminology in words I created the diagram below to present on-boarding as a process spanning many weeks or months consisting of a series of steps and components including induction and orientation activities.  Not all components in the diagram are included in on-boarding by all organisations.  In particular, the development of role specific foundation skills is often separate to on-boarding.


Onboarding – Potential Components

After presenting the diagram I walked through examples of on-boarding programs and activities from a range of organisations.  This illustrated what the potential components consisted of and how different organisations integrate them.

The group was then able to refer to the diagram to define which components were currently part of on-boarding in their organisation, what else should be in place, and which they were responsible to develop and/or deliver.  It also helped them to identify what components needed to be well integrated to create a coherent end-to-end on-boarding process for new starters.



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Sort Your Task List by Start Date

Smart Work by Dermot Crowley

Last week I read Demot Crowley’s book Smart Work, which he describes as a practical productivity book.  He uses a systems approach to the challenge of organising yourself in the digital workplace.  His system consists of:

  • centralising your actions
  • organising your inputs and
  • realising your outcomes (i.e. ensuring you are putting energy and effort into the things that are highest value to you).

The structure of the system (and the book) is logical and easy to follow.  It is written clearly and offers practical tips.  I especially appreciated the emphasis on keeping things simple.  A simple system or process is easier to follow and maintain.  I’ve tried following David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ system, and found it too much effort to maintain.  On the other hand, Dermot’s approach strikes the right balance of practicality and relatively low effort with ensuring that you’ve got all your task inputs and actions captured and under control.

While I already have a reasonable solid, effective system in place for my personal planning and productivity, I’m constantly looking for minor improvements.  I was able to skim Dermot’s book and find a number of useful tweaks, especially in the ‘tech tips’ section at the end of each chapter.

One improvement that I’ve implemented is to organise my task list by start date.  I use 2Do as my electronic task management tool.  The default order for task display is due date.  I was using this default and got out of the habit of entering a start date for each task.  In order to figure out what to work on each day I needed to scan through all tasks due in the coming 1-2 weeks, mentally constructing a Gantt chart in my head.  I would use priority flags to identify the tasks I wanted to work on every day.  The flags would be used for a secondary sort of task display order.  Obviously this process had more steps, effort and time for daily task management than was necessary.  Based on Dermot’s tip I assigned a start date to all open tasks (as well as due date) and I now display tasks in start date order.  It’s much simpler and quicker for me to identify what to work on each day.

Consistent with my goal of a short daily dispatch I’m leaving this post with one key tip today.  I’m sure more productivity posts will appear in dispatches.  If your current approach to managing the flood of incoming tasks, emails, messages and meetings isn’t working well for you, I recommend you read and apply Dermot’s book.


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Weekly Review and Planning Process

Over the past two years I’ve refined the processes I use for personal planning.  I have a personalised integrated system I use to set and maintain progress towards goals, manage emails, calendar, tasks and my budget.  While it’s not fully integrated from a software / tool perspective, it contains a set of inter-related activities supported by a small number of tools.  To effectively use my system requires that I follow cyclical routines I’ve developed – annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily.  Some people find routines constraining and restrictive.  I’m the opposite – if I have some good basic routines in place I feel more at ease, productive and energetic.  I find routines liberating in that they free my headspace, time and energy to get on with high value projects and activities, plus time to learn and explore.

I’ll post gradually about different aspects of my personal planning system via these daily dispatches.  Today’s post is about my weekly review and planning process.  Watch the video* below for an overview of this process and discussion of some of my weekly review questions.

Links to my weekly review templates (these will be current versions on whatever day you access them):

Weekly review checklist

Weekly review questions

Tools I use during my weekly review:

  • Evernote – for my checklists and reflection notes
  • Mail app on my Mac – with my personal and work gmail accounts synchronised
  • Mac Calendar app with Gmail calendars synchronised across all my devices
  • 2Do (for task management) – synchronised across my Mac, iPhone and iPad
  • Way of Life app – on my iPhone – to track my daily and weekly routines
  • HomeBudget and Excel – for budget management

* A note on the video – it was made in Snapchat which I use to keep a daily visual log / journal for myself.  It is public so you can view my daily Snapstory is you follow me on Snapchat (my username is michelleockers6).  At this point my Snapstory is primarily for myself rather than for an audience.  However, it’s always nice when someone does view some of my ramblings and sends me a comment – so feel free to connect on Snapchat.

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Inspired to Restart Daily Dispatch Experiment

I struggle with making time for regular reading and my Working Out Loud (WOL) posts, despite being fully aware of the value of both.  In regard to the WOL posts on this page of my website, I am very conscious that this is a public record and I have a mental image of the standard that they should be written to.  In my mind I have lots of ideas about things to post about and what to say – so clear that I sometimes feel like I have written and posted them.  In my head I am more prolific with Working Out Loud than is actually the case.  So, my mindset is getting in my way of more actively Working Out Loud.

Today is Saturday.  I’ve been very busy over the past month clearing out my possessions and handling other logistics in preparation for a period of extended travel.  It’s been a greater challenge than usual to make time for reading.  Today I have started my morning by sitting on the lounge for two hours writing in my journal and reading.  I feel a sense of space opening around me as I simply sit, read, write and think.  Space like this is important for many reasons – including being more creative and for overall well-being.

Austin Kleon – my muse

One of the things I’ve read is Austin Kleon‘s wonderful weekly newsletter.  He is a champion and role model for Working Out Loud, and one of my sources of creative inspiration.  I love his visual style and the flow of ideas in his blog posts.  He is very consistent with the frequency of his posts, following his own recommendation for a daily dispatch.

I posted back in July 2017 that I was going to try a daily dispatch experiment on my WOL page. It was intended to last five weeks, by which time I was hoping to have made it a habit.  I didn’t last.  I didn’t make it a priority and find a little time to post daily.  I was also too ambitious and set my standards too high for each post.  I’m going to restart the experiment.  To make it achievable I’m setting a 15 minute limit on how long it takes me to write each post, and I’m not going to worry too much about finessing it.

So I’m starting.  Today.  Now.  Am pressing ‘Publish’ on this post.

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The Power of Continuous and Consolidated Reflection

I’ve read several end of year blog posts about ‘What I Learned This Year.’  I enjoy reading them as I’m interested in how others learn, and also find that it sparks ideas for my own development.  When I sat down to write a similar post about what I learned in 2017 I made a list of areas I had developed in, and was surprised by how long it was. It’s been a year of rich learning, and I don’t have time right now to sit down and cover everything in a single post.  Actually, given my list of projects and priorities, I’m not sure when I would make time for this.

The second realisation I had was that in most instances my learning in different areas / topics is incomplete – it’s a work in progress.  This makes sense as learning is continuous, and is part of being human.  While you may protest that you know someone who never seems to learn, as humans we can’t not learn – just some people do it more consciously and effectively than others.

The continuous nature of learning is why it’s important to reflect often, and one of the reasons that narrating your work and learning is so valuable. I learn quicker and better when I think about what I am doing and how I could do it better on a daily and/or weekly basis.  Recording my narration in writing or on video (generally via Snapchat) leaves a trail that I can follow to see how I moved from one point to another, including all the meanderings, double-backs, side-tracks and dead ends along the way.  By recording my narration I create a resource for further reflection and learning.  This record helps to fill in the gaps and inaccuracies in my memory of what I did, how I did it and what the experience was like as I was doing it.  It informs my future direction and next steps, as well as my learning methods. Where I choose to Work Out Loud and share some of this with others I have the opportunity to deepen my learning via feedback and discussion.

There is also benefit in looking at my progress and patterns over a longer chunk of time.  This helps to consolidate my learning and look ahead to how I can apply this and what I want to learn and create next.  I find three months is long enough time to gain useful insight, particularly when combined with a quarterly planning cycle.  The transition from one year to the next is a point where many of us slow down a little and is a natural point in the calendar to review and plan.  This is why there are so many ‘what I learned last year’ and ‘my goals for the coming year’ style of blog and video posts.

Instead of one long post to mark the passing of 2017 and arrival of 2018 I will do a series of shorter posts focussed on one specific topic per post.  I may chunk it down even further and post about one aspect of what I’m learning about a topic….

Wait!  I think I just said I’m going to Work Out Loud on an ongoing basis.

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Podcasts for Learning & Development Professionals

I find podcasts an interesting and easy way to stay abreast of trends and developments in Learning and Development (L&D).  When scrolling through episodes of one of my regular podcasts recently I noticed a “You Might Also Like” feature on the Podcast app which suggested other podcasts that I might be interested in.  This has nudged me to expand my listening menu.  I’ve subscribed to the set below (some old favourites, mandy new) and am listening consciously to several episodes of each podcast with the intent of writing a review.

I started this process about a week ago and have two immediate observations.  The first is that it’s easy to identify ‘hot topics’ in the industry as they are being covered by different podcasts.  These topics include Virtual Reality, curation and xAPI.  The second is that a varied listening diet is healthy.  Although there may be some common topics, each podcast brings different perspectives to it based on the people who feature on the podcast and the style or tone of the show.

Please let me know if there are other L&D podcasts you like to listen to so I can try them out too.