A Four-Step Framework for Your Professional DevelopmentLast week, we started a longer conversation about planning. It doesn’t matter if it’s business planning, marketing and communications planning, or planning for yourself, now is the time to begin to think about next year. As we go back into lockdown in Chicago and other parts of the country, I know how challenging it is to think about tomorrow, let alone next year, but let’s give it a shot. 

We’ll go back to the business-type planning next week, but this week, I’d like to focus on you. After all, if you don’t care for you (and I say this as much for myself as anyone), you can’t take care of your internal or external clients and team. This week, it’s all about you!

We talk a lot about professional development around these parts—both on the podcast and on the blog. Spin Sucks is, after all, a professional development site for marketers and communicators. We are big about continual learning and stretching our brains. One way to do that is to learn, evolve, and advance…together continually.

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 burnout and irrelevance.

And yet, we all do it. I”m as guilty as anyone. It’s not good!

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

There is a simple way for you to think about your professional development; a framework, so to speak. It’s four steps:

  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. I know how hard it is to take immediate action, make time for yourself, and create a habit that allows you to succeed. It’s even more challenging during a global pandemic where we’ve had to give up on so many of the things we love to do. 

When we went into lockdown this past spring, outdoor cycling season was just starting up. Of course, I couldn’t ride with my team or do the long rides required to stay in racing (and winning) shape, but there were some tweaks I could make. We bought our small child—my intern, as some of you know her—a tagalong to go behind my commuting bike. And we did rides together. Every, single day.

It wasn’t the same as my road bike and I certainly couldn’t do the same mileage, but it kept me in shape and it allowed me to continue to invest in myself, even if the small one was always with me. I make the time to do what’s important to me and, boy oh boy, it was not easy this year! 

As luck would have it, as I’m sitting down to record this podcast, an email from Masterclass just crossed my screen. It said, “Looking for a new hobby? In only 10 minutes, you can learn something new!”

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

Your 100 Things

Your 100 Things list is where a notebook or a spreadsheet comes in handy or Evernote or OneNote or post-it notes or a whiteboard. Whatever is easiest for you

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. Your entire lifetime—not just before the end of the year or your New Year’s resolutions. It’s not your bucket list or the things you hope you will do someday. 

The 100 things list is the stuff you need to do. Mine includes things such as:

  • Write a novel
  • Participate in Ride the Rockies
  • Launch a Spin Sucks podcast — OH! I can delete that one. Yay, look at me! 
  • 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
  • Write a book based on the PESO Model
  • 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. If you don’t get to 100, that’s OK. You’ll add and remove things as you go about your days. 

Create Three Lists from Your 100 Things

Now that you have a good start on your top 100 list, take it and create three lists. Those lists should include:

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

You can also add a number behind each. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you have the list evenly split. There are 33 on each list (which I realize is only 99, but bear with me). Now you want to prioritize them. If you have your list in a notebook, you may want to type it out. It’ll be easier to prioritize them if you can copy and paste them in order. Or, if you’re not OCD like me and you don’t mind a messy notebook with numbers crossed out and things reordered, keep it as is!

Once you’ve bucketed them that way, live 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 anything missing. Then finalize your list…at least for now. It will become a living, breathing document, but you can finalize what it looks like for the next 60 days.

Create Your Skill Chart

Now it’s time to create your skills chart. For this, you want to be realistic. While you may have “get in better shape” or “make a million dollars” on your list, you have to be realistic about what that means. You may need to break down those items into more manageable and realistic tasks. Also, jot down exactly what skills you are lacking or currently possess but are weak.

In your notebook, a spreadsheet, or whatever software you’re using, 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. 

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.

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

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) or it’s to read a chapter of a book every, single day. I had to create that as a goal for myself this year because my brain is so foggy and unfocused now that we’re nearly nine months into a pandemic. 

Do the things that are easy to start right now and will give you some instant gratification while you feel like you’re making progress. 

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 might include write a novel or write a book based on the PESO Model. I can certainly do those things right now, but to quote The Bangles, “Time, time, time…”

What’s on your list that you can do if you have the time? Start with one thing and build from there.

One thing to always remember is 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. Review your professional development list every, single morning, so you can see where you are.

Part of the reason I like reading on the Kindle is it gives reading insights. So I know exactly how many days—and weeks—in a row I’ve read. It also shows me if I’ve missed any days (and I haven’t since May!) and gives me badges for hitting goals. Find things like that that allow you to track your progress and get to work!

And, if you need an accountability partner, you can get that and more in the best community for communicators on the internet. 

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich