Published in Winter 2023

“What did you learn today?” It’s a question my 12-year-old is probably sick of hearing. Every day, I ask him to tell me what he learned, even if it’s only one thing. I recently started thinking about this for myself. Often, it’s something silly, like a factoid from a favorite podcast. That learning usually comes by accident. When I sat down to think about my own learning and development, I realized I need to be much more intentional.

In the theme of New Year’s resolutions, let’s ask ourselves: What will we learn this year? More importantly, how will we ensure that we’re making our own learning a priority, just as we prioritize other critical areas of our lives?

Let’s resolve to create an intentional learning plan for ourselves.

1. Decide Your Learning Objective

What do you want or need to learn? Is something holding you back due to a lack of knowledge in a certain area? Last year, my goal was to earn the Certified Professional in Training Management (CPTM) credential. I’ve been a training manager for years, but felt I lacked the formal instruction and certification needed to help my organization meet its business challenges. Earning the certification gave me an immense sense of accomplishment and broadened my network of learning professionals. This year, I’m focusing on a foreign language. I’m envious of those who can connect with others in multiple languages — it opens new ideas and perspectives and allows closer relationships. My learning objective for 2023 is to study Spanish!

2. Set Your Goals

Like many New Year’s resolutions, a goal that’s too aspirational can easily result in failure. I know I won’t learn to hold a conversation in Spanish like a native speaker within a year — that’s not my goal. But I can set small, attainable milestones on a weekly or monthly basis. My goal is to spend at least one hour per week studying Spanish. That may not sound like much, but 52 hours over the year is attainable and realistic for me.

3. Decide How You’ll Achieve Your Goal

There are multiple methods for learning, from formal instruction to self-guided study and social learning. If you choose a formal opportunity, like a professional certification or conference, many of those organizations provide templates you can use to request funding. These templates usually focus on the benefits you’ll receive and be able to deliver to your organization. If your goal is less formal, explore the books, apps, podcasts and videos available at your fingertips. It’s critical that you choose a modality that makes sense for you. If you don’t enjoy it, you’ll likely procrastinate or not do it at all, so spend the time to find what works for you.

4. Build Your Plan

Decide how much time you’ll dedicate to your learning progress and put it in your calendar. Create reminders. This may be the hardest part. Treat your learning just as you’d treat an important project for work because your development is every bit as important. As training professionals, we’re focused on helping others learn, but we often neglect our own need for growth.

Ask yourself, “what keeps me motivated?” Add those motivators to your plan. Reward yourself when you stick to it. Maybe, like me, you need someone to help keep you accountable. Remember my 12-year-old son? He’s the one who’s going to help keep me accountable. He’s learning Spanish as well, and he loves to quiz me. I can’t let him down, so each week I’ll practice my language learning app, read my Spanish phrase books and embarrass myself in conversations with my fluent colleagues. Remember: Each step moves you further on your learning journey.