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  • How to make progress in self-development?

    There're a few areas I'd like to develop myself: learn Spanish, sales, physicology and time management. I'm not sure how to make sure I have a steady development in each. There're two ways I see:

    1. Block out some time daily for each of the areas. Good approach that guarantee steady development. But I'm not sure I can find a block of time when no one interrupts me. And sometimes I understand that this is not the number one priority for me now and try to do other things. Then I feel sorry I couldn't do it and changed that for something else;

    2. Break them down to next actions. They're mainly reading ones. In this case there's even more priority struggle between the tasks. Any customer related NA tends to push self-development NA out. And it's difficult to make it constant (daily or at least each second day).

    How do you find time for self-development? Any tricks here?

    Regards,
    Eugene.

  • #2
    A couple of quick thoughts...

    Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
    1. [...] I'm not sure I can find a block of time when no one interrupts me.
    Try going somewhere else (coffee shop, the park, etc.). Turn off your cell phone, don't connect to the internet, leave the blackberry at home. If it truly is a priority, then treat it as such.

    Carry one of those books with you everywhere you go. Read while you're standing in line at the bank, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or while you eat your lunch.

    For that matter, why not just read between the interruptions? Just because someone interrupts and asks you to do something, you probably aren't expected to drop everything and do that thing "right now"; if you are expected to drop everything, you may want to try to reset your customers' expectations (If you work in a hospital emergency room, ignore this advice!). When someone interrupts you with something, jot it down, throw it in your inbox, and then go back to your reading.

    Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
    2. [...] In this case there's even more priority struggle between the tasks. Any customer related NA tends to push self-development NA out.
    Again, if these 'priorities' are truly important to you, you have to approach them with the respect they deserve. This is not a case of being selfish; you can't serve others well if you aren't at your best, and you won't be at your best if you don't take care of some of these things.

    Stephen Covey refers to this as 'sharpening the saw' (there's a story about a guy who has to cut a bunch of firewood; he can't cut the wood because his saw is dull, but he can't stop to sharpen his saw because he has so much wood to cut). If you haven't already, please do yourself a favor and read 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People'. Sharpening the saw is one of the most critical things you can do for your overall effectiveness, and these activities must be scheduled and prioritized along with everything else that comes at you.

    I know this is a difficult habit to develop. I wish you luck.

    Comment


    • #3
      To jknect's excellent advice I would add: be realistic.

      You probably will have a lot of trouble blocking out an hour for each of these areas *every* day. I know I would. The result is likely to be that you don't make any progress on any of them, and so become enormously frustrated.

      My approach is to block out a given amount of personal development time every week, but not to define exactly how to spend it. Some weeks I'll spend all of that time working on one area, some weeks I'll bounce around. Over time it all adds up, and this approach gives me enough flexibility to deal with external scheduling issues (like seminars) and internal stuff like my energy level.

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        This topic is something I'm very interested in too.

        One of my top priorities is the self studying of courses and exams to take that are related to my work. I work for myself and so development of my skills is very important to me. Not to mention that I am switching career paths too and won't have the large amount of experience that I have now to take with me down this road. And so I turn to certifications/qualifications to get me started.

        I'm new to GTD and am approaching my third weekly review. Everything seems to be going well so far.

        I've planned my weekly calender and have approached this realisticly but also strictly. Meaning that I've been realistic about when I can physically take the next action and scheduled these chunks out in my calender. So far anything thats a date/time specific task has been completed. I'm due to start my self study tomorrow evening. I've also had to be strict with myself and specific about the task in hand. For example, Read Chapter 1 of X, take end of chapter test and also "lecture to the wall". I've blocked out two hours for each of these and I'll see how that goes. I may need more and I may need less.

        If I wasn't specific about what I had to do and blocked out two hours for something like, "Self development", for me thats too wide and I know exactly what I would do. I would exploit that. I would do a number of things that would come under the category and right now top priority is to pass a particular exam. If I allowed myself to study across 4 or 5 things then the passing of the exam would take me longer. I've given myself 2 months to pass an exam which I do think IS realistic.

        Again, if these 'priorities' are truly important to you, you have to approach them with the respect they deserve. This is not a case of being selfish; you can't serve others well if you aren't at your best, and you won't be at your best if you don't take care of some of these things.
        This quote above is now making me think that maybe they are not truly important to myself. If they were I'd book the exam date right? If they were I wouldn't find this so hard to do right?

        See, even though I'm in only my third week of GTD, I can already feel that I'm more attracted to some tasks than others. I know that. I can feel that when I choose. I know I'm not applying the right "what do I do now?" context rules when I look at my lists.

        For me there are a number of reasons for this. For example, passing the exam will bring some very big unknown changes to my life. At the moment I have a very flexible contract allowing me to arrive and depart at will and work from home when I choose. This comes in very handy when your wife works shifts and you have two kids to help look after. If I pass this exam and get experience in the new field then more contracts and clients may follow meaning that I no longer have that flexibility.

        The others seem to be that I haven't defined thoroughly what the next steps are. I've been too generic.

        @Borisoff - I'd be interested to hear what you find that does work for you.

        Anyway I'm off to buy the book recommended by jknecht. Thanks for that.

        I'd also be interested to hear how other people do handle your self development projects and what works for you.

        Comment


        • #5
          This quote above is now making me think that maybe they are not truly important to myself. If they were I'd book the exam date right? If they were I wouldn't find this so hard to do right?
          I never said it would be easy; only that you have to give it proper respect. Most things worth doing are hard.

          If it's purely a matter of trying to find the motivation, here's a suggestion: when you write the next action, include WHY you are doing the next action. For example, instead of writing 'Read chapter X of book Y', write 'Read chapter X of book Y so I can be recognized as an expert in my field, earn more money, and get to do what I really want in my career!' (odds are that the test doesn't really mean that much, it's more about what happens after you pass the test).
          Last edited by jknecht; 03-28-2007, 04:39 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            This quote above is now making me think that maybe they are not truly important to myself. If they were I'd book the exam date right? If they were I wouldn't find this so hard to do right?
            What I meant by this is that you are right. If its important enough to me then I should be committed enough to do it. So why haven't I booked the exam? Why do I keep putting this off? These are really just questions for myself. I just wanted to re-ask if they were still important to me considering I began this over a year ago now.

            I do like to tip about expanding out my NA's to include the reasons for its creation. I'll give that a shot and see if that works.

            Thanks again for the tips. They are much appreciated.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
              Try going somewhere else (coffee shop, the park, etc.). Turn off your cell phone, don't connect to the internet, leave the blackberry at home. If it truly is a priority, then treat it as such.
              I tried going somewhere but I find that there're even more distructions then in my office or home office. I love my desk and that's gives me additional motivation. Plus I can't switch the phone off. Self-development is not the highest priority at last but should be done on a weekly basis.

              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
              Carry one of those books with you everywhere you go. Read while you're standing in line at the bank, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or while you eat your lunch.
              That's Next Action approach. As I mentioned in this case an NA with higher priority (i.e. customer call) tends to push reading NA off. So it could work or could not.

              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
              For that matter, why not just read between the interruptions? Just because someone interrupts and asks you to do something, you probably aren't expected to drop everything and do that thing "right now"; if you are expected to drop everything, you may want to try to reset your customers' expectations (If you work in a hospital emergency room, ignore this advice!). When someone interrupts you with something, jot it down, throw it in your inbox, and then go back to your reading.
              Can live with interuptions. But very hard to start working on self-development project when customer project is on the plate at the same time. So additionally to interruptions there're internal priorities problem that stops me from doing that.

              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
              Again, if these 'priorities' are truly important to you, you have to approach them with the respect they deserve. This is not a case of being selfish; you can't serve others well if you aren't at your best, and you won't be at your best if you don't take care of some of these things..
              Good idea about serving others. It's more of motivation

              Thanks for your ideas and thoughts. I think I will try to go both directions now. First I will put reading into @Action lists - just in case I'm done with all higher customer priorities and can go in for self-development. And to be sure I'm sharpening the saw weekly I will block out the whole Friday for Weekly Review and Self-Development. I can do urgent tasks that could appear on Friday during the breaks between SD sessions. I think that could put me in a good mood and give me enough confidence that I'm doing my work and developing myself on a constant basis.

              Regards,

              Eugene.

              Comment


              • #8
                I find this free website "Joe's Goals" really useful for developing daily habits:

                http://www.joesgoals.com/

                For instance, if you want to learn Spanish, put "Study Spanish 20 mins" as a daily goal, then when you review your goals page every day (or in your weekly review), you'll be able to tick off when you've done it, as well as see how long ago it was that you last did it.

                My new years resolution was to read more. This was a vague goal I've had for ages, but since starting to use that site I've really been unable to neglect it, because I'll see a week with no ticks and the guilt will get to me!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rangi500 View Post
                  I find this free website "Joe's Goals" really useful for developing daily habits:

                  http://www.joesgoals.com/

                  For instance, if you want to learn Spanish, put "Study Spanish 20 mins" as a daily goal, then when you review your goals page every day (or in your weekly review), you'll be able to tick off when you've done it, as well as see how long ago it was that you last did it.
                  It looks like an advanced check-list for recurring tasks. I've bookmarked the site. It's an interesting way of tracking. Is it possible to get an off-line copy of that software to use? Actually it's possible to do the same in Outlook. I just have to re-read Outlook manual

                  Thanks for idea!!

                  Regards,
                  Eugene.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                    Thanks for your ideas and thoughts. I think I will try to go both directions now. First I will put reading into @Action lists - just in case I'm done with all higher customer priorities and can go in for self-development. And to be sure I'm sharpening the saw weekly I will block out the whole Friday for Weekly Review and Self-Development. I can do urgent tasks that could appear on Friday during the breaks between SD sessions. I think that could put me in a good mood and give me enough confidence that I'm doing my work and developing myself on a constant basis.
                    Here's my short report. Putting self-development reading on Next Action lists was of no success. When at the office work-related NAs were of greater priority then self-development NAs. At home it was useless to do because of low-after-work-energy level. So the only hope was Friday. And it worked. At least once But this Friday I had a board of directors held that unexpectedly (or expectedly?) lasted another 2-3 hours then planned. So my intention to do self-development session after that disappeared like a unrealizable dream Maybe it was an exception to the rule so I will keep trying next week

                    Regards,
                    Eugene.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Target is now in my sights. All I need to do is shoot - right?

                      I am really really interested in this thread as this is the probably the biggest thing I have in my "things to do". It has the biggest pay off certainly. If I'm stuck for something to do and I'm at home, I hear David saying "what, in the context that I am in can I do that can give me the biggest pay off" and for me studying is it.

                      I'm still struggling to find the answer to why I find this so hard to do. Everything else I am mowing through and I'm finding nothing too big - except this.

                      I've got two IT certs that I wanted to pass and I heavily invested in one around a year ago and here I am and I've still not passed the exam. The other was too expensive but was the one I respected and wanted to do the most. I figured that if I past the first then after handing over the cash I would have a better chance to pass the second and it wouldn't be a waste of money as they are very similar.

                      My work have just invested in me and purchased for me the second course. There is a 4 month access to the online material so I now have a deadline. This now means "ok Jason enough is enough. It is time to get funky" as the song goes.

                      I've scheduled my studying time for the next two weeks so I know when I should do it and its on my calendar meaning that it will die if its not done. So far with my GTD implementation - if its a time and day specific task then it has been done. I'm hoping that placing this on there wont push that place over the edge and will still result in me getting it done.

                      For me my wife works shifts meaning that after 20:00 (when the kids are in bed) she's not around or about the head off to work. So I hit the coffee hard to give me the energy to study online. At least that is the plan. Other commitments have meant that I'm not even in the country next week let alone @Home or @Computer so this is all scheduled to start the week after.

                      I'll keep you informed using this thread and I'm grateful if you let me know what you find works for you.

                      Jason
                      Last edited by JasonJ; 04-06-2007, 12:01 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Jason,

                        ok, agreed. Let's try to hit it together I now know that these ways didn't work for me:

                        - Put it into Next Action list @Office
                        - Put it on the Calendar during office hours
                        - Put it into Next Action list @Home
                        - I have no energy to do it in the evening after work
                        - I'm stressed when I do it in the evening because of my child

                        Once it worked as a All-day event with blocking out the whole Friday. Actually it turned out to be not the whole day work. I studied in 1 hour increaments with breaks in between for rest, streching, processing inputs just to be sure I'm in a safe position to contunue. Started in the morning at the peak of energy. And it was cool! So my intention it to try the same next week.

                        Regards,
                        Eugene.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Studying and hacks

                          I just wanted to touch base to see how things were going for people here.

                          Things are going quite well on the study side. I just wanted to share how things are working for me and little tricks I've found.

                          I took a look at the possible times in the calendar when I could schedule in this study time. I was left with in the evenings or taking a study day in the week and study from home. Both of these times I need to consume myself into my study. If my wife or kids are there and awake then its impossible. My wife works shifts so when she's at work during the day I book at least one of these to study at home.

                          When she's working in the evenings I study at every one of these opportunities I get. On these days its my job to pick up the kids from the childminder. I've also scheduled quality time with my kids which is from when I pick them up (17:30) to when I put them to bed (20:00).

                          One hack that works for me is that from 17:30 onwards until 20:00 I'm drinking coffee. The reason for this is this gives me that essential boost to keep me going until 22:30-23:00.

                          Anyway kids go to bed around 20:00 and from then on I'm studying in the dining room away from the TV for around 2 hours. I take regular breaks and a couple more cups of coffee.

                          I've also grabbed the audio of the course and I've put this on my iPod which I listen to constantly every time I'm in the gym (45 minutes) and driving to and from work (2 hours).

                          The other issue that would have impacted not only studying but seriously would impact getting anything done is beer. Now I'm not an alcoholic but I like a beer in the evening when I come home from work. Problem with that is when I've had one or two then my productivity levels hit rock bottom and nothing gets done. I finally found the answer which means a can still have a beer in the evening which doesn't give me that beer gut and doesn't kill my productivity levels one little bit. That answer is the Indian beer Cobra or should I say its non-alcoholic version. Now I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that horrid disgusting taste that you get with all of these. BUT this actually tastes really really good. In fact side by side I prefer the taste of the non-alcoholic version and so does all the people I've handed one of these to.

                          Think about it ; its still a beer but without the gut which Im also fighting and winning AND I'm still alert and productive well into the evening. For me this is the ultimate hack I've found so far.

                          Anyway far too long a reply as always I just wanted to let you know whats worked for me.

                          Please let me know how you fight this problem and whats working for you.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Just to update my progress as well.

                            I found that Friday is not convinient for me to study or do anything (including WR). People keep calling and coming so it turns to be the same standard working day.

                            So I moved my sudies to Saturday. I get up as usual so have some quiet time in the morning before my wife and child get up. I just didn't decide yet what to do first - Weekly Review or me Lessons.

                            I try to work till noon. If I have to stop to do something for my daughter or wife I stop and do it. Anyway I try to continue after that at where I stopped. Last time I spent almost the whole day studing with some stops for lunch and family events.

                            And I feel great about it. I have a progress that motivates me to keep going the same way. So tomorrow my 3-d week of experementing with whole-day studing.

                            Regards,
                            Eugene.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Update

                              I just wanted to post an update to my situation with regard to the studying.

                              I passed both exams today with high marks and am very very pleased. I dont think passing the exams had sunk in until I received an email asking me to join the select few on the advisory board helping develop the courseware and the exams. The next step is for me to produce a technical paper and submit it for review to hopefully acheive GOLD status.

                              It helped massively having a day or two a week off away from the office to study at home. It also helped me massively listening to the audio of the courseware on my iPod (other well know mp3 players are available ) I listened and read and studied until I dreamt about it all.

                              Hope all is on track for Eugene and for everyone else here. Let me know.

                              Jason

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