Don’t have time for professional development?

One common reason for not doing as much professional development as people might like is that they don’t have enough time to fit it in. This could be something they feel themselves, or it could be a wider organisational perspective. 

Whilst time is indeed a finite resource, and we do only have 24hrs in each day, I’d like to encourage us all (including myself!) to think differently about our professional development time. 

Below are three challenges I’d like you to consider:

1. We actually have more time than we realise

Think about your working day. Can you honestly, hand on heart, say that you fully utilise all that time? I know I can’t. I often take a break to do something else, or I get lost in a rabbit hole that I don’t need to go down, or I spend too long perfecting something that doesn’t need any extra time spent on it.

Parkinson’s law dictates that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If we add something else to that list to do within the same timescale, or we give ourselves a slightly stricter deadline, we’ll often be able to do it. That’s not to say that I believe it’s healthy for us to be working at our maximum capacity all the time, but we may well be able to make minor amendments to gain more time for other important activities. 

2. Time spent on professional development will often save us time in future

Here’s a big one. I often hear people talk about wanting to pass something on to someone else but that the time involved in doing so (and providing support) is higher than the time to do it ourselves. But what if it’s something we’d like someone to help us with more than once? Then it may become worthwhile because the long-term pay off is worth it.

The same can be said for relevant professional development. If we learn something that we can apply to our work on a regular basis, it can often save us a great amount of time and energy in the long-term and is therefore worth our investment. 

3. We don’t need to dedicate a lot of time to professional development to benefit

My final challenge is around how much time we actually need to dedicate to professional development. I know I’ve sometimes found myself thinking I don’t have time to X, and then realised that actually it wouldn’t take anywhere near as much time as I’m imagining and I could therefore definitely do it.

I’d say this is often true with professional development; we rarely need to spend a massive amount of time on it, and often we can incorporate this time into our working day rather than as a separate activity.

Much of the development that comes out of a coaching relationship is outside of the coaching sessions and during the normal working day (as people try new ways of working thanks to realisations from coaching). Even the leadership residentials I run don’t take a huge amount of time – they are usually completed in shorter time periods of dedicated focus as the big changes happen incrementally in the workplace.

So, what can you do if you feel you (or your team) don’t have enough time for professional development?  

  • Look for creative ways to develop whilst “on the job”
  • Identify shorter, more focused development opportunities 
  • Consider stopping (or reducing) some of the activities getting a lot of time allocated to them

What would you love to do if you had more time for professional development?