Create Routine. Develop a Rhythm.

I was recently at Wright-Patterson AFB and had the chance to meet with the local Company Grade Officer Council. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss different ways to define and increase important professional development habits. A point that came out of the discussion was time, or lack thereof. As a person who works with JMOs leading up to, and as they transition from the military, I often talk to military officers about how to find time in the week to develop professionally.  Interestingly, I rarely talk to a military officer who says that they do not want to prepare. That said, I often talk to some who struggle to find time during the week to work on development. I recommend that officers create and apply a weekly rhythm to the routine of professional development. I know that can be difficult to achieve because essentially, I am talking about using discretionary time to do more work. The benefits; however, are worth the effort. Here are some tips that you can use to build routine in your week and find a rhythm to devote to professional development.

Mindset: Start here. Decide that what you are doing is important and beneficial. Take ownership of your development and make it a priority.

Routine: Schedule uninterrupted time (or times) during your week. I recommend making a session somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour and creating a recurring appointment on your Outlook calendar.

Routine PhotoDefine your goals: Start with the end in mind. What are you trying to achieve? Are you studying for a professional certification? Are you trying to learn more about a specific topic? Are you preparing to make a transition? In whatever case, define your goals, define critical tasks and set a specific activity goal for each session.

Protect the Time: This may be the hardest, but perhaps most important step. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Showing up is 80% of life.” Make your development a priority. Be intentional. Will it be prefect? Probably not every time – life sometimes gets in the way. If you can’t make a session happen, reschedule the time or ensure that you don’t miss the next one. Unfortunately, it is just as easy to fall out of a habit as it is hard to develop one.

We all have many commitments, both professionally and personally, that demand much of our time. Hopefully these tips will help you create and protect margin in your week so you can develop great habits of professional development.
Pete Van Epps