Friday, July 10, 2009

Why Are Trainers Such Horrible Learners?

There is a "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" mentality prevalent in the Adult Learning field. Those of us lucky enough to earn a living facilitating others' development tend to neglect our own. We let the urgent items in life continuously overshadow the important things - all while preaching to our audiences about the critical need to be life-long learners.

A typical, and frequent, statement from colleagues is, "I really want to learn more about using (any social networking site) for learning, but I don't have time." Here, I present ten tips for making time for self-development.

Are these earth-shattering revelations? No. But maybe, one of these tips will be what you need to hear, when you need to hear it in order to make self-development a regular part of your balanced diet.

  1. Create a Performance Goal: If you have a formal performance review process at your current place of employment, ask to add a Professional Development goal into your discussion. This will help hold you accountable to that goal. Here's an example:

    "Research best practices for creating interactive Web conferences. Document and distribute my findings to the team by October 31st, 2009."

  2. Block off Calendar Time: This is one habit I very recently started. Every week, I block off a few hours of research time. The amount of time depends on the amount of work I have to do for the week, and my current passion of the week. I always find that if I have time specifically devoted to self-development, I don't feel guilty using it!

  3. Work with a Colleague: Do you remember working on group projects in school? Remember that horrible feeling of showing up to class without your part of the project done? Use that motivation to work with someone towards a common goal. Divide up the research and share back with each by a certain timeline, or pick two conferences/events that discuss the same topic and then compare notes.

  4. Tie a String Around Your Finger: Okay, not literally. But do leave post-its on your monitor, or put that book you really want to read on your nightstand. Set up your iTunes to download podcasts. I actually set a recurring calendar appointment on the first of every month to check the available podcasts and white papers on ASTD, ISPI, CLC, and CCL.

  5. Should or Would (A): We all know how much more difficult it is to learn about something we need to know versus something we want to know. So the first tactic to try is to dig into the topic you should learn about until you find an aspect that is enjoyable to you.

  6. Should or Would (B): The second option is to focus on the results. I really don't like reading financial reports. But, this is an important aspect of my current role. So - I focus on the outcome of this effort. After completing my goal, I can speak with confidence to my target audience, which has immense benefits for me.

  7. Manage it Like a Project: I know that this is common sense, but if we all listened to common sense, some of us would not have gone to art school. Ahem. Anyway. Break your goal down in to smaller, manageable steps. What are your milestones? When will you accomplish them? How much time each week do you need to devote to each step?

  8. Adjust Your Expectations: This may sound a little negative, but really it's about not setting yourself up for failure. Recently (as in last month) I set a goal to create a business plan to present within one month. That was totally unreasonable given my current time commitments, and it took a little work before I realized it. You can extend your timeline, or choose the smaller milestones mentioned in step 7 as your goal. Reward yourself immensely for hitting those milestones!

  9. Procrastinate: You've done everything right but you are still avoiding the work? Simple. Sometimes, the very best thing you can do is concentrate on something else. I know this goes against all sorts of GTD philosophies, but I really believe in the power of background-processing. While stressful to some people, I love that when I am working on one goal, the urgency and desire to work on another goal gathers momentum in my thoughts.

  10. Find a Mentor: I attribute much of my progress recently to my incredible mentor. As we talked, I started finding my voice and my direction. My mentor helped me rediscover the aspects of this industry that get me excited and made me choose this path in the first place. (By the way, it's more than finding someone you respect, but more about that in another post.) This is someone who can help you remember why you want to be a lifelone learner.
Okay, well hopefully this helped you think of one or two tactics you can use this week to recommit to self-development. I'm sure I left out A LOT of great ideas. Feel free to leave some of your ideas in the comments!

Bad Training Idea #6

(or, Commence nap time!)
"Welcome back from lunch! We're going to start our next segment with a video. This is a 35 minute clip of our CEO discussing our mission, vision and values."

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