A lot can be accomplished in six months! Looking back over the past year, I would like to share what I did that allowed me to accomplish several large goals in less than a year.
In the past six months, I:
• became a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) (October 2016)
• presented at the ATD Asia Pacific 2016 Conference & Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan (November 2016)
• passed my doctoral comprehensive exams (December 2016)
• presented at the Training 2017 Conference & Expo in San Diego (January 2017)
• presented my research proposal at the College Options Without Walls Spring 2017 Doctoral Studies Symposium (March 2017).
I accomplished all this while working full time as a training manager at a software company, teaching at a university, and pursuing a PhD. In this post, I would like to share my top five tips to inspire you to keep moving forward in your academic journey.
1. Know Your "Why"
To understand your “why,” answer these two questions:
1. Why you are pursuing higher education?
2. What are the consequences if you decide not to pursue higher education?
Let your responses be your driving force—your motivation to strive forward and establish priorities. The journey will inevitably be hard as you balance school, work, family, friends, and other obligations. Use your “why” to focus on what is important as well as the reason you may say no to activities that do not move you closer to your goal. While everyone has 168 hours a week, only you can control what fills those hours.
While making progress is the goal, do not forget to take breaks. Have you ever noticed that many great ideas come when you are in the shower or out on a walk? Downtime is essential to maintain happiness and to allow your brain to discover creative solutions to problems.
2. Create a System
To be efficient, you need a consistent way of working—managing your time and organizing your content. I like technology and use cloud-based services to keep me organized and structured. I manage my schedule using Google Calendar. It is free, online, and available on all my devices. I also use Dropbox, a service for storing files in the cloud, which also allows them to be accessible on many devices. Another tool is Trello, a web-based tool for tracking projects and tasks.
It is best to select a few tools that work for you. This is a challenge for me because I like to try new tools, but I need to focus on a few tools that work for me and drop the ones that do not add value. The key is to create a system that works for you.
3. Fuel Your Area of Study
Your time is limited, so find ways to streamline your activities. One of my goals was to speak at an ATD conference. When I submitted proposals to speak at conferences, I submitted topics I had researched and have experience with. I recently presented on harnessing the power of informal learning, which is directly related to one of my passions and my area of doctoral research. Sharing my area of study fueled interest in the topic and motivated me to work harder in my academic pursuits.
Think about how you can utilize what you’re already doing. For instance, are you in a technical degree program? Offer to build a website for a local small business—you will help that business and you build your portfolio at the same time.
While you may already have the support of family and friends, it is also helpful to connect with people who are on the same journey as you. Last year, I met a lady at my local ATD chapter who was on a similar path as me. She worked full time, taught college classes, and was working toward her doctorate. Even though we work at different organizations and were attending different universities, we could relate to each other’s journey, celebrate successes, and cheer each other on when times were tough. The beauty of technology is that you can connect with those nearby and those around the world using social media.
5. Keep Learning
While sometimes the work to press forward in a degree may seem daunting, keep learning. Learn from reading books and blogs, learn from your peers in higher education and through your local ATD chapter, attend ATD conferences, and participate in the higher education special events. Also, when you learn something that helps you in your journey, share it with others to help them in their journey.
Remember your “why” and use it to guide your focus, create a system that works for you, fuel your area of study, connect with those who share your journey, and become a lifelong learner. It does not matter where you are in your academic journey; keep moving forward