An end-of-year wish for L&D

As we move towards the end of the year, many of us will want to take some time out. It seems like it’s been another year of too much to do and not enough time to do it. This sense of being overwhelmed is widespread among everyone I talk to in our field, in every sector and every location.

And it’s based in reality. L&D genuinely is under pressure to do more, usually with fewer resources.

There’s an issue with this pressure, and it applies to everyone who experiences it, whatever field they work in. Abraham Lincoln reputedly said “If I had a tree to feel and eight hours to do it. I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax and two hours chopping.” Whether he actually said this or not, the point stands: we work best when our tools – and our brains – are sharp.

Conversely, when we work flat out, our tools lose their edge, anything achieving becomes harder, and takes longer, and we slip into a downward spiral of decreasing effectiveness.

What we’re left with at the end of this is a learning and development profession that has no time to either learn or develop. That is bad for us, and bad for the organisations and people we serve.

So, if this year it felt like you haven’t had time to pause and take a breath this year, perhaps it would be a good idea to use any holiday time at the year’s end to accomplish two things.

First, take a break. Do not read anything about L&D, design, corporate strategy or anything to do with work. Concentrate instead on unbending from the working year, stretching muscles you haven’t used for a while. And have a bit of fun too.

The second thing I’d ask is this: make a new year’s resolution. Now these are notoriously tricky things to make work, but aim to keep at this one for at least 4 weeks. If you can make it to the end of the first month of the year, the odds are you’ll carry on successfully to the end.

The resolution I’d ask you to make is this: make time to read a good book in our field. Reading helps lift your head from the remorseless grindstone of the week’s daily chores, and gives you time to reflect. It is a slow, deep process that switches your mind from the immediate to the longer-term. And with this unbending, comes an additional benefit. There’s a fair chance you’ll learn something new, and that your axe will end up a little sharper.

Happy reading.

This, my final blog entry for the year, is the preface from the December 2014 edition of Inside Learning Technologies and Skills Magazine. Click to read.

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