I am sure it is a familiar feeling. It is that post-holiday period following Christmas and Summer holidays, when beautifully devised plans developed over long journeys or during a meal face the harsh reality of other, competing commitments, including family, friends, home and other hobbies. My latest is a commitment to learn Spanish through daily learning activities delivered from a lovely free app, called Duolingo. So far, so good. But, with only one weeks since returning, my activity chart is already beginning to nose-dive and resemble the share price of Tesco plc. I have other guilty recollections of an aborted novel, fabulous DIY projects, more time sailing… even rediscovering a six-pack!
This cartoon highlights a problem many of us have with planning for the future. It illustrates how we often believe that defining the finishing point, the goal, is sufficient. We anticipate a small, but gentle, gradient of effort. We tell ourselves that ‘nothing is easy’, but don’t not want to believe that it will demand serious commitment. In reality, ‘The Universe’s plans for you’ depicts how obstacles, shortcuts, and risky alternatives lie ahead, possibly in the form of unanticipated activities, deadline clashes with other scheduled activities, and other personal and professional commitments. So how can we plan better?
If, like me, you are not only a serial offender, but occasionally juggling multiple hobbies, interests, and courses, with professional development, it can all get rather messy. Many of us use paper journals to plan out our day or week. These serve as useful tools to prevent ourselves from being steered off course, but result in numerous booklets which are rarely referred to again. Online tools, such as Evernote, Trello, and a million other apps, now serve a similar purpose, with the added benefit of personal reminders, searchability and 24-7 availability. However, very few online tools can offer these benefits, whilst also providing self-assessment, peer review, flexible design tools, integration with cloud storage, and offline capture.
When choosing an online tool for personal development, it is important to consider how it addresses each of these five key areas:
1. Self-evaluation, or where am I now?
You should able to create your own self-assessment forms and repeatedly evaluate themselves, using rating scales, open and closed questions, and prompting for the addition of supporting evidence. These are useful as personal assets for personal planning and reflection, or maybe for sharing with friends/colleagues.
2. Target setting, or where do I want to be?
Using self-assessment forms, personal reflections or peer feedback can help you create realistic targets. A great approach to reflective planning is applying the ‘What, so what, now what’ method.
3. Action Planning, or how will I get there?
An Action Plan is designed to promote deeper thinking into how to achieve a personal goal. It might include your current situation, steps to success (What, How, When), and what resources you need to reach your goal.
4. Action and Practice, or how am I doing?
Regular updating of progress and reflection on next steps helps prevent by-pass obstacles and prevent delays. Using a mobile device to regularly record your progress from wherever, whenever, is preferable to memorising incidents or scribbling down notes in a pad and transcribing later.
5. Reflection, or how well did I do?
I strongly believe that reflection at all stages helps improve personal and professional development. Each of the previous methods should be supplemented with a period of reflection, to capture thoughts, feelings and experiences.
…And as for my language training, I now have no excuses for being a fluent Spanish speaker in 12 months…Adios !