Everybody prioritises on a day to day basis. What differs between individuals is not whether the process exists but how  

well they do it. Prioritising is not just about organising, it is also about how you focus and choose the tasks, work and activities that you partake in.

Therefore, there is a strong element of ‘saying no’ involved when mentally or literally choosing the work you do. The word ‘no’ often has negative connotations however in recent years there is an ongoing fanfare- in the self-improvement world- around the power of the word and exercising an individual’s right to say ‘no’. In fact it can be said that the recently ended summer of 2018 was when ‘no’ fever reached its crescendo and ultimate stardom status. One point that has always been clear is that prioritising your life is important for efficiency and effectiveness.

What you don’t do determines what you can do. #leap #cpd

The Team at Leap Like A Salmon have had a long think about how ‘saying no’ helps professionals with their ongoing learning. Having this attitude and applying it to CPD led to two key ways we think that it would be applicable and actionable to those who are serious about professional development. The two key messages in this post are that:

1) Prioritising CPD itself is highly important, and may require individuals to sacrifice time that they may otherwise spend doing more desirable activities instead of actively reflecting on CPD or even going to learning events.

2) Focusing the CPD that you do on the activities that meet your goals, objectives and interests is extremely important for you to be engaged in your learning, enjoy it and to actually learn on a deep rather than superficial level the new skills and knowledge being shared.

Remember that no one is telling you what activities to do. You have complete control over the CPD activities that you choose (other than the mandatory events that your employer chooses for you to attend). Therefore, as you’re probably a very busy professional you should ensure that you commit to CPD and take it as seriously as you take your work. Perhaps even more if you are at a stage where you want to be promoted or reach a higher level in some dimension. You should be wise with your time by choosing, how, what and when you do your CPD.

Consciously choose your CPD activities. As you are already aware you spend dozens of hours doing these activities with the aim of updating knowledge, skills and supposedly becoming more employable. This would reduce likelihood of obsoletion in your role, increased value as an employee compared to peers, and your worth in financial terms. Therefore, it is necessary that you analyse thoroughly and pick only the most important and best ROI activities to work on for your CPD. You should say ‘no’ to doing either an excessive amount of CPD or activities where you already possess a thorough knowledge. To paraphrase, you must focus on only the most relevant and fruitful activities for you. If you are going to be spending that amount of your precious time on these activities, you want them to count, right?

Simultaneously, you must be honest with yourself about the areas that you should improve upon and how you should systematically address gaps and personal soft skill weaknesses. Being realistic about where you are at and where you would like to be is crucial to your professional success.

Inglis (1994) identifies a critical perspective of self that he calls an ‘extraordinarily realistic self-image’ (ERSI). This is required to ensure that all aspects of yourself are considered; dreams, goals and plans.

You may have wondered what was meant before by ‘focusing your CPD’. Well the latter point is pertinent here. If you do not have a desire for more knowledge at the moment, do a quick inventory check of your current skills and decide how you should address them.  Perhaps, you have all the skills you want or require. Hone in on your specific areas and build around them. Unless you are deceiving yourself there is bound to be at least one thing that will make you think ‘no, my skill here is not up to scratch’. Then it is that thing that you should tackle systematically but earnestly.

As a professional working on their CPD on the contrary you may be tempted to engage in lots of CPD activities without thinking about their relevance to you, your goals or your objectives. ‘Say no’ because if this becomes excessive, it is questionable whether any of it at all is of any benefit to you. Not all learning is created equal. You may be one of those rare CPD enthusiasts  however, getting overexcited  and unfocused would only serve to be a disservice to you and your wider goals and ambitions.

Ultimately, prioritising CPD is a must for career success and for any professional for that matter. However, it is up to you to put in the work and choose how you do your CPD, when you do it and what to learn about. Some of the more effective ways of doing CPD involve actively selecting the most relevant activities to you, your industry, organisation and its aims- such as learning about concepts related to your future assignments. Focus can be evasive in this modern world of screens and busy lifestyles. The more strongly you can break this mould and spend solid though, not excessive time on CPD which is targeted and most necessary to you and your goals the more rapidly your career and life will change positively.

Remember that according to some of the planets most successful individuals saying ‘no’ is important for your success. CPD is no different, and in many, many ways this principle is also applicable. Choosing where you focus your emotions, attention, reactions and behaviour is the first step in creating the life you want.

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