One of the days that I look forward to at the company I work at Adopt and Embrace is that we have dedicated “Learning Days” every quarter set aside where the entire day is spent on self-driven learning. During Learning Days, we are free to spend the entire day learning what we want as long as it has some application, context and support to our work.
I look forward to Learning Days because it allows me to consider those things that I don’t usually make time for during my work day as I’m focusing on well, my actual work and community. (I’m a Community Manager for our Academy which is a peer community of IT, Change and Business people who help each other with ideas, resources, case studies and examples for how to help their organisations use and extract value from O365 and Microsoft Teams).
I work three days a week Monday through to Wednesday and then usually spend Thursdays and Fridays doing my own personal learning on other topics and creative projects that usually involves lots of reading books, writing blog posts like these, undertaking online courses through MOOCs and other paid ones I find from my favourite YouTubers, and experimenting with video.
Having an additional Learning Day within my three days of work is merely a bonus for me but I would focus learning specifically on the themes and topics of my work. Namely, anything to do with learning Microsoft products (in particular ways of incorporating them into business or work flows); community management, b-corporation (this is a new area of responsibility for me); and of course, video editing (usually Camtasia or the new one I would like to dedicate time is Adobe Premier Pro).
How Are Learning Days Organised?
Learning Days don’t spring up as a surprise. It’s just part of the way we work and everyone has a part to play.
As a team, we would schedule these into our calendar and then make every effort that all our client work is completed or postponed (if we can). We will not schedule client work if we can help it on this day. If we are travelling, then that’s no problem because we can do our learning anytime, anywhere.
The focus of the day is usually in this priority order:
- Catch up with mandatory and compliance training
- Learn about Microsoft products and technologies focussing on the priorities based on our client demands
- Learn about various aspects of our roles (for example, mine would be Community Management at the moment with some dabbling of video – but I usually do this on my days off because it’s fun, creative and requires me to actually DO things – that is, have a project in mind to experiment on which usually takes some days and which I don’t want to use my Learning Day for).
How Do I Organise My Own Personal Learning Plan?
I use Microsoft Planner to create Boards of things I need to learn.
In the past, I have used Trello and even my own templates (see my post on How to Create Your Own Personal Learning Plan and Create Your Own Personal Learning Playlist as well as A New Personal Productivity Planner )
The reason I have moved over to Planner is that as I’m working for Adopt & Embrace, a Microsoft Partner, the best way to learn all the products was to integrate them into my own work flows that I had. So if I used Evernote in the past, I moved over to OneNote; when I used If This Then That, I moved over to Microsoft Flow (now called Power Automate) etc. This meant that I was learning the Microsoft tools in the same way I was using the other third party application with the added bonus that I now have everything “talking to each other. That is, all my documents for work are discoverable, searchable and within the applications that I need them.
Planner is really easy and simple to use and works on exactly the same principle of Trello. I have all my work plans on these and use these as a checklist of what I need to do individually and as a team.
Here’s the Plan I created for my own Learning Plan. I have deliberated showed the completed items so you can see how the checklist may work. Alternatively, I create the checklist within the actual task within the board.
In Planner, I have boards that are split into the following:
- Mandatory Compliance Training
- Microsoft Product Knowledge
- Recordings I Need to Watch and Listen To
- Books and Blogs I Need to Read
- People I Need to Connect With
- Experiments I Need to Try Out
- Tweets to Follow Up On
- Blogs I Need to Write
- Videos I Need to Create
Within each board there are various tasks. Some tasks are one-off, others have a checklist of items within them.
So this is the way I track everything that I need to complete in my own time but also as well as on the dedicated Learning Days.
When I come across a new learning activity I need to do, I’ll put it on the list and then decide how and when I’ll dedicate some time to it: whether I do it in my own time or whether I wait for the Learning Day or, even, if I dedicate some time on any other work day.
These tasks are ultimately self-selected and self-driven. The plans can be accessed by my manager and the team if they would like access to it however, on the whole, there is a high level of trust by everyone that we will complete what we want to do when and as required. The only evidence of us completing the courses are completing anything that formally sits within Microsoft Learn (Microsoft’s Learning Management System) and us posting copies of any certificate transcripts into a SharePoint folder as well as filling out an Excel document of time and date we completed training. We are also responsible for sharing key lessons into Yammer on completion.
What If You Don’t Have an Entire Day?
I know many people are going to baulk at the idea of spending an entire day on personal learning – or even half a day. However, the beauty of learning is that it can happen anytime, anywhere for any duration.
It’s up to you, to consider your entire day and look at it in 15 mins slots and see where you have some free time where you can focus on learning something new – no matter how small.
If you allocate 15 mins per day in the work week, this will build up over the week. You’re probably already doing some and you don’t even consider it learning. For example, on your commute to and from your work can be spent on activities such as reading a book; drafting a blog post; watching a short YouTube video to learn something new; participating in a community; making notes about a research paper you’ve referenced and so much more. When you go to work, all you need to do is to share this bit of learning to your community or network – or reference it some way that you can reuse and refer to it in future. Maybe talk it through with a colleague or your manager as it may be useful to others.
Learning happens anytime, anywhere and any how.
Incorporate it into your work day so that you can find new ideas and insights, new people who can help you and great tips and techniques that you can apply into your daily work routine to break up the monotony of work and to start conversations with people around you.
You’d be surprised how much of a conversation starter and relationship builder it is when you share what you’re learning to others – especially if it helps improve their own work in some way such as saving them time.
An Evolution of My Own Personal Learning Plan
In 2018, I used a “paper” version of the above board which has now all moved over online to Planner. You can download a copy here.
It’s interesting to watch the evolution of my ideas from paper to online but I have to say that there’s NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY. Why? Because the most important bit is the actual learning itself, not the right template to do it (although it does help you reflect on it).
I love watching these little videos I created in Snapchat that have been critical for me to review my progress over time and how I have evolved my thinking and practice.
So what are your thoughts about personal learning plans or dedicating time or days to learning?
Does your employer encourage you to do this?