Yesterday I tweeted photos of my ‘September 2015 Professional Development Outcomes’ and ‘October 2015 Professional Development Goals’.
My reply to Fiona Barr’s comment below made me realise that over the past few months I’ve actually created 40+ hours per month for Professional Development, in addition to integrating learning into my work activities. In effect, I’ve created an extra week per month to invest in my own Development.
Doing a little bit, consistently, each day, accumulates quickly into a lot of development and the creation of new possibilities – particularly when I do things that connect me to others and put me in a situation of co-learning. So, in this post I describe how have done this. For context, I work full time, commute by public transport around 2 hours per day (including walking either end of the trip), have a 10 year old child whom I solo parent during the week without extra child-care, and a dog that I walk at least 2 x 30 minute walks per day. I share this detail just in case anyone thinks that they have commitments in their life that would preclude them for investing more time in their development. Note – this is not a prescription, just an example of what works for me. The underlying principles could be adapted by anyone to suit their life situation and preferences.
1) I manage my energy. Most nights I get 7-7.5 hours sleep. I’m a lark and rarely work in the evening (when I do, I definitely feel the drain on my energy and productivity for the next two days). I walk with my dog 2 x 30 minute sessions per day. I take short breaks from my desk during my working day. I eat reasonably well. I find a strong sense of purpose in my work. I recommend the book “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, which is appropriately sub-titled “Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.”
2) I have a routine and invest in myself when I am freshest. After my morning walk I sit in my home office and invest an hour in professional development. This works for me because my mind is clearest and my energy best first thing in the morning. I generally do this on weekends too – at least one day every weekend. This routine works with my circadian rhythms and makes the most of my periods of highest mental arousal and creativity. I recommend the book “Manage Your Day-to-Day,” a series of short articles on the theme “Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind.”
3) I have a theme (or small number of themes). While I have many interests, I have a small number of themes to orient my professional development activities and minimise the time I spend down rabbit holes (it’s very easy to meander on the internet and social platforms). Currently my key themes are Social Learning, Communities of Practice, Personal Knowledge Mastery and Modern Workplace Learning. It’s probably at least one theme too many, although the degree to which I focus on any one shifts from time to time.
4) I set goals and track my activities. Three months ago I was feeling overwhelmed. I had over-committed to delivering presentations (conferences, webinars) on top of work projects. I felt like I had lost traction and was spinning my wheels. I decided to make a list of what I needed to achieve in August, plan each week’s activities, and track what I had actually done. I downloaded a calendar grid, added space to write out goals and outcomes, and took note of what I did each day. This was a high leverage thing to do, and a really ‘easy win.’ Tracking my activities made me aware of how much I was actually doing and helped me to focus on doing the things that would help me most to achieve my goals. It also helped me to be more careful about what I took on. Although it may look like my October list is ambitious, most of this is discretionary and I am not letting anyone down if I don’t get it all done this month.
5) I make the most of ‘incidental’ time. I have around 40 minutes per day sitting on a train or bus 3-4 days per week. During this time I am online – reading blogs (often via Feedly) or online course content, viewing Twitter feeds (I use lists to focus on key themes) or reviewing Twitter chats relevant to my themes, and engaging in conversation online. I spend 7 hours per week walking my dog. I often listen to podcasts or YouTube videos during my walks. Sometimes I dictate a short reflection. Other times I simply let my mind wander and use it for renewal. All of these are good uses of this time. Here’s a podcast directory in case you want to explore podcasts.
6) I am part of a network. I am not alone. I have the force multiplier of a global network of people with similar interests who share good content, engage in conversation, and sometimes co-create with me. I use my network to filter content for me, to spark ideas and help me to gain insight, and I endeavour to contribute by showing my work, being curious and engaging with others. I feel that I have barely scraped the surface of what is possible through networks, yet am in awe of their power and potential to accelerate my professional development.
Do you have any other tips for how to create more time for Professional Development or make the most of your PD activities? Please share by commenting on this post.