I am a busy person. My job requires me to be highly organised and juggle many balls at once. I am always on the go. There are endless opportunities for improvement to pursue as well as the day to day responsibilities of my position.
I have always been the sort of person who has vision and drive for personal development. A few years ago I solidified the process into making a development plan for myself. The plan covers a longer term achievable stretch goal and some tactical plans to achieve that goal. The plan is my guiding overall road map for self improvement and professional development. When I do this, I also look at my strengths and weaknesses. I review myself honestly, warts and all, so that I can work on overcoming things that might hold me back from achieving my vision.
While I have experienced both professional and personal success using this method I found late last year that I was losing focus and not pursuing my long term plan as well as I could be.
So early in 2017 I revisited my development plan. I reassessed my development vision and worked through the general actions I would need to undertake to achieve it just as I always had before. This year however, I added a new part to the plan. I scheduled a weekly meeting with myself to review my progress against the plan.
When I plan projects in my business life, it would be very strange if I managed the project without having regular progress meetings. A core fundamental of lean philosophy is the Deming cycle of Plan – Do – Check – Act, a process of continuous improvement that reviews the success of implemented actions based on the predicted target and makes new plans to adjust for any unexpected outcomes or further improvement requirements.
It suddenly became clear to me that in order to continuously improve my own development process and increase my chances of success in achieving my vision, I needed to apply the PDCA process.
The outcome of scheduling this weekly progress meeting has been beneficial in a number of ways. Here are the benefits I see can be gained with scheduling a regular time with yourself:
1: Regular reinforcement of the vision
Life is busy and its hard to maintain focus on things that are in-your-face important let alone long term personal development goals. I found that having a weekly meeting with myself gave me the opportunity each week to reinforce my vision for myself, question whether I still felt that the vision was value adding to me and focus on why the vision was important to me. I have often found that it is easy to forget sometimes why a goal was important to me in the first place and the weekly review is a good time to reflect on this and re-commit.
2: Record progress against targets
Depending on your personal vision or goals, your planned actions and measurements for achieving them will be different. I found my weekly meetings a great time to record and reflect on progress against my actions. When progress slipped, I could examine why and make plans to get back on track or deal with the obstacles that were preventing progress.
3: Avoid ‘passage of time’ slippage
One of the things I have found as I’ve gotten older is that time really does pass quicker. When it comes to working towards goals you can find that deadlines come up a lot faster than planned and sometimes before you realise that you actually haven’t achieved much. The weekly progress meeting I hold with myself offsets that issue. Each week I review my progress against the timeline I have set for myself. Again, doing this gives me the chance to see where I’m at and correct my course if necessary (and believe me it’s been necessary on many occasions).
4: Reflect and plan intentionally
Once of the unforeseen benefits of having weekly meetings that I experienced was that I began to start developing plans and visions beyond the goal I was currently working on. As I got closer to achieving my goal for the year I started to think. “What next? What do I want to achieve in the future”. I noticed this more as I started to ask, “How are my personal and professional goals fitting in with my overreaching philosophies of lean thinking, intentional living and simplicity”. In past years, I would have been more likely to think “Oh no, I let my goals slip, I’m losing my sense of purpose, I’d better review the Development Plan”. This year, I have felt a strong sense of purpose the entire year and I’m absolutely certain that my weekly meeting with myself is the main reason for that.
5: Refine the path
In all truth, if it wasn’t for my weekly meetings with myself. I never would have started this blog. Using the PDCA cycle on not only my progress against my vision but also the vision itself resulted in a day when I started to question whether the vision I was pursuing was really what I actually wanted to achieve, or just what I thought I should achieve. So I immediately wrote down a series of bullet points entitled “What I Want”. On that list was “I want to write”.
I have always loved to write but have also always been afraid to write. I have wanted to start a blog for a long time, but only as a secret thought that I didn’t share with anyone as a reasonable action, even myself. What if I was terrible at it? What if my posts were boring? Or irrelevant?
Redefining my personal vision using weekly meetings with myself made me realise that if I wanted to write, I should write. If I was terrible at it I would soon find out and would be able to improve. What was most important was that I wanted to try it and on top of that I felt that I had a genuine contribution to make, both through what I have learned in my career around lean thinking and my more recent experiences around minimalism and intentional living.
Without my weekly meeting with myself, I would have kept this vision inside and not have given myself the time or opportunity to plan and implement it.
6: Refresh Yourself
It’s a busy world. Other than when I’m walking the dog, or driving to or from work I don’t really have any time to really think about myself and only myself. I also find that there’s a real lack of pen and paper, or computer to take notes on or record my thoughts when walking the dog or steering my vehicle. So without my weekly retreat, I would struggle to find an opportunity to spend an hour just with my own thoughts, thinking about what I want for myself. I have found this process refreshing and restful over the last year and I can’t see a time when I will not do this for myself in the future.
Not everyone wants or needs to have a personal or professional development plan or regime that is as structured as mine. I am a person who likes to have a plan and I am always looking for ways to improve my own process. My method is not for everyone and realistically when I made it I was only thinking of me.
If you are a person that prefers to leave your options and schedule open you could still make this idea work by sitting down with yourself whenever you had time or the mood took you. If that works for you that’s great.
But, on the other hand if you are interested in taking your personal development to the next level you may want to explore some of the ideas and benefits in this post and take some regular time out, just with yourself, to progress your goals.