Gini Dietrich

Create a Professional Development Plan to Actually Accomplish Something

By: Gini Dietrich | August 22, 2017 | 

professional development planWe talk a lot about professional development around these parts—both here on the blog and internally.

Spin Sucks is, after all, a professional development site for communicators.

Our vision is to change the perception people have of the PR industry.

One way to do that is to learn, evolve, and advance…together continually.

(Another way is to have a precise definition of PR, which seems harder than it should be.)

At the same time, it’s incredibly difficult for us to invest in ourselves.

We’re accustomed to being behind the scenes. We work tirelessly for others and put ourselves on the backburner.

Of course, this is the fastest way to both burn out and irrelevance.

And yet…

But with a little thinking, two weeks time, and a notebook, you can be well on your way to professional development that helps you reach your goals.

Your Professional Development Framework

Jon Westerberg has a brilliant professional development framework for you.

  1. Write a list of 100 things
  2. Create a skill chart
  3. Take immediate action
  4. Make time for yourself

Now, I know the third and fourth things are going to be tricky for most of you.

Trust me.

The only way you can invest in yourself is to take immediate action and make time to do it.

You know how I ride 300 miles on my bicycle every week? I make the time.

(And, trust me, when that alarm goes off, there are many mornings I think, “Eh. One day off won’t hurt.” But I never actually take the day off.)

Your 100 Things

Your 100 Things list is where a notebook or a spreadsheet comes in handy.

I keep mine in my bullet journal.

It doesn’t matter where you keep your list. What is important is that you have one.

It should include the things you fully intend to do in your lifetime.

Not your bucket list. Not the things you hope you can do.

The things you really will do.

Mine includes things such as:

  • Write a novel
  • Participate in Ride the Rockies
  • Launch a Spin Sucks podcast
  • Build the most enviable and unbeatable community in the PR industry
  • Create a foundation
  • Write for The New Yorker or Vanity Fair
  • Take a sabbatical
  • Move to Colorado (alright, this might be more bucket list if Mr. D. has anything to say about it)
  • Ski multiple times every winter
  • Play with the Small Child every day
  • Put my phone/tablet away from 6-8 p.m. every day
  • Advance artificial intelligence in my businesses
  • Hire a virtual assistant for everyone on my team
  • Write a book based on the Modern Blogging Masterclass
  • Take online courses to keep my skills fresh and stay ahead of the trends

Take 30 minutes and write down 100 things you will do in your lifetime.

Now he suggests creating three lists:

  1. Things I need skills to accomplish
  2. Things I can do immediately
  3. What I need to make time to do

Add a corresponding number behind each item on your list.

Then he suggests living with your list for two weeks.

Add to it, delete things, adjust.

Ask a friend or colleague to review it. Make sure there isn’t something missing. Then finalize your list.

Create Your Skill Chart

For everything on your list that has a number one next to it, you need to create a skills chart.

He says:

Be realistic, don’t kid yourself. You have to honestly put down exactly what skills you are lacking or currently possess but are weak.

In a spreadsheet, add four columns:

  1. List the skills you have to learn
  2. Research
  3. Action
  4. Progress

In column one, list the skills you need to achieve the things on your 100 List that has a number one next to it.

In the Research column, write down exactly that—the research you need to do to create your action plan.

The Action column, then, becomes the things you need to do to accomplish everything in column one.

For instance, take an online course, read a book (or six), subscribe to a few blogs, do some pro-bono work to get you the experience you need, or find a mentor who has the expertise to share.

You could even (cough, cough) join the PR Dream Team to accomplish many of those things at once.

And then the Progress column is where you are against completing that skill.

Did you commit to joining the PR Dream Team and you did, but haven’t participated?

Or did you say you would take an online course and you haven’t signed up yet?

Be honest with yourself.

Take Immediate Action

Now you can move to the second list—the things you can do immediately.

If it were me, I’d prioritize those and I’d get to work on the first item.

Work first on what some people would call the “low-hanging fruit.”

It’s the straightforward things—maybe it’s to read A Little Life (a superbly written novel that is a mere 720 pages).

That’s easy to start right now.

Find the things on your 100 List that you can start right now and give yourself some instant gratification.

Make Time to Do

Now you’re onto your third list.

These are the things you want to do, but they take significant time to do.

You can do them without new skills—or professional development—but you do need some time.

On my list, that inclues write a novel, produce a Spin Sucks podcast, or write a book based on our popular online course.

What’s on your list that you can do if you have the time?

Start with one thing and build from there.

Remember this list can easily take 25 or more years.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Choose four things you want to accomplish in the next year and get to work.

Write Down Your Goals and Invest in Professional Development

They say you don’t accomplish goals you don’t write down.

Jon says he reviews his professional development list every, single morning, so he can see where he is.

Write down what you want to accomplish and review it daily.

For me, that has to be in my bullet journal because if it’s in Evernote, it’s out of sight and out of mind for me.

Figure out what works best for you and give it a go.

I understand Jon has a coaching program for this exact thing. I don’t know him, nor have I taken the program, but I’d be remiss not to mention it because it’s his framework and all.

P.S. I’d love to know which four things you chose for the next year.

Drop them in the comments, and we can go back to them every 30 days to see how you’re doing!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Ellie Schlam

    Great ideas Gini, I think most PR people (myself included) are so busy planning for their organizations or clients that they neglect to set their own professional and personal goals. This step-by-step To Do list leaves us no more excuses for procrastination! Thanks and I’ll print it out and get moving!
    P.S. How many miles do you bike each day and how long does it take?!

    • My favorite topic! I ride 30 miles every weekday morning (5:30-7:00) and weekend rides are much longer. I was actually just complaining to my coach that I’m exhausted. I’m on vacation next week and won’t ride at all, which will re-motivate me.

  • Professional development is so important. I make time every day for professional development in some way, and keep track of monthly goals in my planner. It helps to slowly chip away at those goals…

  • KensViews

    All good points. (BTW, your list should include bringing Mr. D and the Small Child “Down the Shore,” and “taking Ken’s calls whenever he phones.”) But I digress. Many people want to take action on the things you’ve described, and they try, try and try. What they’re not dealing with is that whatever blocked them from taking action before, may prevent them from taking action now. That’s where working with a certified coach can make all the difference. We help empower executives to get rid of those blocks, and create practical action plans.That, paired with what you’ve outlined in your post, can drive great progress!

    • My list includes stuff I know I’ll do. Let’s be real…I’m just not going to answer the phone.

  • heidicohen

    Gini–Thank you for your transparency on a topic that every professional regardless of focus should follow. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide

    • I love this kind of stuff. It keeps me motivated and accountable.

  • Liz Reusswig

    You and I (and all of us) have discussed this a ton and it is SOOOO hard to do. I like this plan and my action today is to set my schedule for at least 15-30 mins per day to develop, review, and ACT on at least one item.

    And just saying, I LOVE the idea of hiring a VA for each team member! 😉

    • I added “make dinner five nights a week” last night to my list. And it’s going on my list to start RIGHT NOW.

  • Debbie Johnson

    These are great suggestions. I’ve been thinking a lot about professional development and career goals and need to get those thoughts organized into goals and a plan. Thanks for the motivation!

  • Ohhh, I love this. I’m making my list on Friday and will come back over here then.

  • Yes, the PR Dream Team is the perfect place to never stop learning. I find something new to learn every day. So many smart people in the PR Dream Team family.

    What I found works very well for me is to wake up earlier and make time for myself and my personal and professional development. I’ve been testing this approach for a couple of months now and I am much, much more happier. I read more books, take online courses, find new ways to challenge myself. The time I set for myself in the morning is non-negotiable unless there is an emergency (and these rarely happen). When something happens and I am not able to have that time for myself, I make sure to add it to my calendar for the weekend.

    Thank you for sharing Jon’s framework. I need to test that out.

    • I’m a fan of Jon Westenberg’s. I like his self-deprecating style and ability to always reinvent. I have ZERO idea how successful he is from a business perspective, but he definitely talks a good game.

    • We all know you don’t sleep, Corina.

  • I need to do this. I also started A Little Life, but haven’t finished. I started it a year ago… the life isn’t so little. I really want to love this book, but I keep stalling. Anyway, back to the point of the post: taking action is my achilles heel. I love to plan. Planning to plan is even better. Putting the plan into action isn’t nearly as fun.

    • OMG. I can’t stop. My mom sent it to me on audio, which I discovered I cannot do. So I’m reading it instead. It’s so, so, so good.

  • Cool! For 2018, finish the draft of my YA novel, go to Scotland, spend more time with my parents, and have lunch with Gini.

  • padraigmckeon

    Now that is a good start to my reading the Spin Sucks blog. I have just come out the end of almost four years back to back formal study over four programmes since leaving agency and need to ‘decompress’ a little while building a solo practice… but can’t take the eye off the development wheel either… great food for thought