For most people I know, life is as busy as it has ever been. We feel the strain of being pulled in too many directions… of finding time for our “to dos”, creating memories with our families, nurturing meaningful relationships, engaging in our communities, enjoying art and beauty, and trying to answer questions about our own life’s purpose. And for so many of us, all of that is happening in the limited time we spend outside of our workplace.
I’ve had mixed results when it comes to figuring out how to balance the many aspects of our existence, and I can’t say I have any secrets to achieving a well-balanced life. But as I was thinking about all these different priorities, I started to consider how professional development fits into the picture.
Oftentimes, our work lives can become so hectic that professional development is one of the first things to go. Who has time for composing long-term goals and acquiring new skill sets when you have barely enough time to get your day-to-day work completed?
Rather than forgoing our professional development all together, though, I think that gives us even more incentive to use our development time well and make it count. So recently I came up with some criteria for identifying professional development opportunities that are most worthy of my finite time and resources.
The criteria is simple – to yield the best, most valuable results, focus on opportunities that help you develop…
- easily transferable skills, with
- endless applications, that
- provide value to you and the organizations you are a part of.
I find it incredibly helpful to develop criteria like the above because it allows me to make smart decisions about where to put my energy. It’s like a rubric you can easily measure your professional development efforts against, and decide whether or not they’re worth pursuing.
For example, I participate in Toastmasters and find it to be a great way to practice my public speaking skills. It’s a pretty big time commitment, but I have opted to stick with it because public speaking is an easily transferable skill (it will be relevant in my career regardless of where I end up) with endless applications (learning to speak more eloquently and get my point across is important in all kinds of situations I encounter – both in and out of work) that provides value to me and the organizations I’m a part of (public speaking is the #1 fear among Americans, which means everyone is thrilled to find folks who are good public speakers and enjoy presenting).
I also used the criteria to determine that some other well-intentioned professional development pursuits I’d undertaken were no longer worth it. The decision to cut those activities out of my life was much easier when I measured them against my criteria and realized they were no longer making the grade.
If you don’t already have your own criteria for determining how to spend your professional development time, give mine a try.
Learning new skills and building your capacity for career growth is important. In fact, I’d count “making time for professional development” among those top priorities like creating memories with our families and engaging in our communities. Just be sure you make that time count by selecting development opportunities that will serve you well for a long time to come.