By Elizabeth Eyre and the Mind Tools Team
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Finding Time for Professional Development

Making Learning a Lifelong Activity

Woman in library

© Veer
Hans-Joachim Schneider

It's important to make time for professional development.

We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn. – Pete Drucker, management consultant and writer.

How often do you set aside time to learn new skills? Chances are, not as often as you'd like!

If you're like many people, you're keen to learn, but you struggle to find the time. So, how can you make this time, develop your knowledge, and increase your value, both to your organization and to future employers?

Why Make Time for Professional Development?

If you're a manager, you'll know how important it is to ensure that your team members are given plenty of training and development opportunities. However, it's just as important to focus on your own learning and development. To do this, it's essential to set aside enough time.

There are several reasons why you might not make learning a priority. Volume of work is the most obvious reason: with work and personal responsibilities competing for your attention, it can feel impossible to find room in your schedule for learning.

As well as this, you may feel guilty about taking time out for personal and professional development; after all, this could be used to work on urgent or important tasks, or even to be with your family.

It can also be difficult to make learning part of your routine. In the course of a busy, hectic day, tasks like "Read leadership book" and "Complete online course" can easily slip to the bottom of your To-Do List.

This can lead you to feel disappointed about not living up to your own expectations, which can affect your self-confidence and make you feel less positive about your career. You can also suffer if you don't stay up-to-date with changes to your industry or profession. For instance, you might miss opportunities to make a greater contribution to your team or organization, and other people may become more effective than you in the workplace.

However, when you make learning a priority, you increase your value to your organization. You're more marketable as a professional, and you're in a better position when you apply for a challenging project or seek a promotion.

Continuous learning can also help you develop expert power . If your boss, team members, or clients see you as an expert, they're far more willing to respect your opinion and follow your lead. This can make it easier to win support for your projects, negotiate a contract, or manage change.

Personal Learning Strategies

There's no doubt that it's important to make your own professional development a priority. But how do you find time to do it?

1. Set Learning Goals

If you don't recognize the importance of what you're doing, it will be easy to give self-development up whenever you're pressed for time or lacking energy and motivation.

So, your first step is to identify your learning objectives, and visualize how these will help you achieve the other professional goals that you've set. So, what do you want to get from your learning? And why are you making time to learn?

It's important to set...

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