How to Fit Professional Development Into Your LifeAs is evidenced by my blog post yesterday, I am big (huge) fan of professional development.

At various points throughout my adult life, I’ve wondered aloud why so many people hit midlife and become stagnant.

It’s a combination of many things, including family and work and just not having enough time to do it all, but the biggest reason is we stop learning.

What used to be the core to our very beings becomes not relevant at all as we add adulting into our lives.

It’s sad because it’s truly one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself relevant.

And yet…

Look, I get it. I’m in the same boat as most of you.

Running two businesses, running a household, raising a child (and I only have one compared to lots of you who have more than one), a husband who travels 60 percent of every week, trying to get in some exercise…and now I have to add in professional development?

Yes. Yes, you do.

And guess what? You make time for the things that are a priority.

If professional development, continuous learning and stretching your brain, is a priority, you’ll make time for it.

How to Fit Professional Development Into Your Life

Beyond that, though, it’s what yields the biggest return—both financially and emotionally.

Earlier this week, the headline, “Want To Become A Multi-Millionaire? Do These 15 Things Immediately.” caught my eye.

I’ll be honest—I click on that stuff to see how I measure up…or if I’m failing in the eyes of the author. And most of the time, I click right out of the article.

But this one? This one is different.

Benjamin Hardy, the author of Willpower Doesn’t Work, lists the 15 things you need to do to become a multi-millionaire.

And guess what is on the list multiple times?

You guessed it! Professional development.

Here’s his list:

  1. Invest at least 10% of your income in yourself
  2. Invest at least 80% of your off time into learning
  3. Don’t work for money; work to learn
  4. Don’t learn for entertainment; learn to create more value
  5. Invest at least 10% of your income into things that will generate more money
  6. Shift your motivation from getting to giving
  7. Openly acknowledge how dependent you are on other people
  8. Create strategic partnerships to achieve 10x or 100x goals
  9. Set 10x goals and face your fears (or, as my niece would say, base your beers)
  10. Get really, really good at marketing
  11. Don’t focus on time and effort; focus on results
  12. Shift your environments regularly
  13. Define “wealth” and “success” for yourself
  14. Know and operate from your deepest “why”
  15. Have a firm stand; it becomes your brand

While all of these are very, very good (and you should definitely read the original article), I want to focus on numbers one through four as they relate to professional development.

(Also, numbers 10 and 11 should already be innate for you. If they’re not, get to it!)

Invest 10% of Your Income in Yourself

Early in 2010, we had a vision: we just knew online training was going to go somewhere and we had to be one of the first to the table.

To say we’ve made mistakes (very, very expensive mistakes) is putting it mildly.

But one of the things we’ve learned over and over again is that people pay attention to the things they invest in.

Put it this way: if you buy a business book for $20 that you just know is going to help you, but you don’t have time to read it, do you feel guilty if it just sits on your desk, unopened?

Maybe…and maybe not. But that $20 isn’t a big enough investment for you to make it a priority.

But let’s say you make $60,000 a year and you invest $6,000 in your professional development.

Do you make that a priority? You bet your booty you do! It’s a large enough sum that it forces you to give it the attention it deserves.

Hardy has this to say:

For every dollar you spend on your education, skills, and relationships, you’ll get at least 100 dollars back in returns.

Now we’re talking $600,000 in returns.

That’s significantly better than spending $6,000 on the stock market.

So don’t be afraid to spend some money on your professional development.

This could be conferences, events, online training, coaching, or a paid mentor.

The point is: do it.

Invest 80% of Your Off Time into Learning

For most of my life, I have been teased because I know nothing about pop culture.

(My poor husband made it his lifelong quest to educate me on all things 80s and 90s…and he eventually gave up.)

But if you want to know anything about books, I can talk for hours.

I’ve always been drawn to books over television.

But Hardy says it’s more than that. He says:

Nearly every second spent on social media is consumed time. You can’t have that time back. Rather than making your future better, it actually made your future worse. Just like eating bad food, every consumed moment leaves you worse off. Every invested moment leaves you better off.

Entertainment is all well and good. But only when that entertainment is an investment in your relationships or yourself.

That’s not to say you can’t Netflix and chill. You can! Just spend 20 percent of your time doing that and 80 percent on your personal or professional development.

I think I mentioned I’m learning to paint with oils.

Every night, before I crack open a book, I work on my latest painting. Or I take another lesson in Masterclass.

Before you veg out every night, ask yourself, “Is this learning time or vegging time?” If the answer is 80 percent vegging time, make it a priority to flop it.

One of the questions we ask in our interview process is, “What is the last book that you read?”

This tells us a TON about people and what kind of learners they are, which translates to workers.

If you tell me it’s People Magazine (and that happens more often than not), I know you’re reading junk and won’t be a very good writer or learner.

(In defense of People, if you follow it up with, “But I read A Little Life right before that and needed a brain break!”, I’ll also give you a break. That book STILL haunts me. Three years later.)

Work to Learn

You know how yesterday I said I am gunning for the chief technology officer role around here?

Of course it’s in jest. I can’t really be CTO.

But the point is that I am constantly breaking things and testing things so I can learn.

If you’re not the owner of the business, that’s harder, but you absolutely can spend a good portion of your day learning.

Just reading this blog post is learning. Engaging in smart conversation with your colleagues or in a super active community (hi, Spin Sucks community!) is learning. Taking an online course is learning. Finding new ways to approach your communications program is learning.

We certainly need money to live and pay our bills, but that should be the ancillary benefit to learning.

(And, as it turns out, you DO make more money as you learn because you’re growing. And growth is always rewarded, be it a promotion, a raise, a bonus, higher fees, or a new client.)

Learn to Create More Value

I love how Hardy phrases this:

Far too many people read books now just to say they’ve read lots of books. If you’re not applying what you’re learning, your consuming and wasting your time.

There are four books I’ve read that have changed the trajectory of my business:

  1. What Would Google Do
  2. Traction
  3. Built to Sell
  4. The Conversion Code

Not every blog post, article, book, video, or podcast will change your life. But if you go into every one of them with the idea that you’ll learn at least one new thing, you’d be surprised at how valuable that is.

So How Do YOU Do it?

There, of course, is lots, lots more to this and more than just professional development, but this is a great place to start.

And now I leave the comments to you…how do fit in professional development?

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