“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time.” (J. Wooden)
If you have chosen this path, it means that you consider work to be a lifelong training ground where there is always something new to learn, refine, train and add to.
Yet many people see the time for learning (typically school or further education) as coming before the time for working and progressively lose the desire and capacity to acquire new skills and knowledge. Often people read less and less, attend training courses without any conviction or endeavouring to apply the theory learnt to everyday working practices. It is typical for people to continue doing what they do best, without testing their ability to learn something new. All this leads inexorably towards the progressive obsolescence of people’s professional skills and the risk of being shut out of the working world.
To avoid running the risk, it is of the utmost importance that you devote part of your working day to developing new skills, based on your interests and on the experience you gain as well as on the opportunities and innovations offered by the outside world.

To start planning how to further develop your professional skills, here are our first five tips:

Book quality time

The motivation to develop new skills and the resulting effort and commitment, is heavily dependent on the choices you make when deciding which skills to develop, how useful you think these skills will be and if you think they will bring rewards and gratification.
This is why it is essential that first you evaluate and select the skills you wish to work on and subsequently “study” them in depth, scheduling the right amount of time to do so, not just odd moments. Developing skills requires the kind of concentration and attention you can only muster up during quality time.
You should consider skills development a fundamental part of your work and as such, it deserves the most favourable conditions.

Training your mind to concentrate and to be curious

For many adults, as time passes, the ability to concentrate diminishes, as does the propensity to change and to adjust to new situations.
If you are really determined to develop new skills, you must counter this natural tendency by training your mind to be curious and to concentrate.
One thing that may prove useful, for example, is to go to new places and socialise with a different set of people, as well as reading books and magazines on subjects you are less au fait with. What you need to do is practise finding stimulation in unfamiliar environments and then to look for connections with your work. As sustained concentration is hampered by a hyper-connected lifestyle, you should make a habit of directing your attention to a few things at a time for prolonged periods.  For instance, try setting aside an hour a day in which you focus entirely on developing your skills and switch off all your electronic devices for that time.

Act “as if”

One of the most common traps people fall into when they wish to learn something new is the desire for perfection and/or the fear of making mistakes. In both cases, these traps “paralyse” people and prevent them from applying the theory to real experience in the field. Two examples are learning foreign languages or digital systems. Unlike teenagers, adults find it hard to “let themselves go” and are more cautious because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves or don’t feel ready and up to the task.
Avoid falling into these traps by acting “as if” you already have mastered the skills you are trying to develop.  It isn’t a trick, rather it is a sort of role play that can help you overcome your fears and reluctance and put into practice what you have learnt as a means of further improving your skills.

Develop enthusiasm

You should realistically channel your energy and efforts into something that generates enthusiasm. You’ll need plenty of enthusiasm to overcome the inevitable difficulties and labours. Focus on the sensation you feel when you imagine how your professional life will benefit once you have acquired and applied your new skills and evaluate how enthusiastic you are at the thought. Think of everything you will gain and imagine how some things will change and kindle this enthusiasm every day.

Set goals

Concrete results require concrete goals as well as interim targets that allow you to assess progress, make adjustments and tackle each step with more confidence since you will be concentrating on one target at a time.
Marathon runners or athletes accomplish almost impossible undertakings, such as running for hundreds of miles in the desert. To succeed, they never think of the entire task ahead. Instead, they break it down into small, achievable targets and focus only on the short distance that separates them from the next step of the race. This is an excellent technique to apply to your professional development. Split your ultimate goal into a number of targets, define how you will know when you have accomplished them and set time limits that are challenging yet doable the get going, taking one step at a time.
#theartofworking is the art of investing in yourself every day