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It is no secret that "Continuous Professional Development" (aka CPD) is crucial in every job. If it is true that everyone "never stops learning", it is equally true that freelancers feel the urge to maintain a good level of knowledge more than any other profession in order to never lose contact with their market. CPD is also required by many professional associations and standards alike. Freelancers notoriously wear more than one hat, which means that they need to be knowledgeable in more than one field - and the more they know, the more they want and need to know: this is a fact.

To me, CPD is not only a requirement or a "duty", but rather a passion: I love keeping myself up-to-date on many subjects, having to learn something new almost every day, the fact that I can strengthen both hard and soft skills, and attending offline events where I can network with real people and meet professionals and colleagues. Year after year, however, I can tell how this passion easily and inexorably turns into an obsession: the number of things I aim at learning, books I plan to read, and courses that I want to attend eventually gets out of control. I can't bear such an overload of resources and information, and so I eventually end up being submerged by tons of tasks in my queue, with very little time to carry them out. This leads to a large dose of frustration and, ultimately, to having to give up some of my endeavors (thus more frustration).

For this reason, I recently decided to try and set a more organized way to tackle my CPD efforts by planning them ahead and by being more rational. This approach has been working quite well so far, so I thought of sharing it. My method is based on scheduling everything well in advance, on a yearly basis, and it is basically divided into the 5 steps below.

 

  1. BRAINSTORM 

I take a moment to think about all the things that I want to learn. A new CAT tool? Time management? Terminology? Storytelling? I write everything down, and then I group my interests in macro areas.

 

  1. SELECT

Let's face reality: it is impossible to learn everything, and not everyone has much time to dedicate to learning, especially when there is a job to do, a family to run, and so on. Therefore, I select a limited number of macro areas, and leave the rest for another year. I usually choose four main subjects, one for every quarter, but you can decide to set a monthly schedule or whatever your allotted time allows.

 

  1. DEFINE A BUDGET

Some resources are free, but some are definitely not. I usually choose a yearly budget out of my estimated professional costs, and then I divide it by four. This way I know, more or less, how much I want to spend each quarter in education and training.

 

  1. CHOOSE THE RESOURCES AND ADD THEM TO THE CALENDAR/PLANNER

At this point, I assign one macro area to each quarter and I start listing the resources (books, seminars, courses, etc.) to fit in that period. Bearing the budget in mind during the selection stage, I add all of the options to my calendar/planner. I start with already set dates, like those of courses and events, and then I add the rest, if necessary. You may want, for example, to dedicate one hour every day to reading a book. Or one day every two weeks to online courses. Setting clear dates and times helps me stick to the plan and encourages me to carry out my tasks, but you can also decide to leave them to when you have time, within the predetermined time frame.

 

  1. BE FLEXIBLE

I always leave some room (and budget) for unexpected but important events/CPD opportunities. You don't want to lose the chance to learn something crucial just because you hadn't planned it. Moreover, you can switch topics or delete any of them, you can change resources or adapt time slots on the go. Find your own pace and follow it.

 

This way of organizing my professional training has proven to be very helpful, and not only for not wasting time and money, but also to achieve better learning curves in each subject by grouping contents by affinity. Every quarter, I try to go as deep as possible into a subject, as I know that in the next quarter, I will be focusing on something different.

And you? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your CPD needs? If so, how do you tackle it?

 

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  Sara Pisano

  Traduttrice e localizzatrice

  L.4/13 G.U.26.01.13 

  Socia ordinaria AITI 208054

  P.IVA 02594360733

 

 

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