Developing a Personal Learning Plan

In this article I'm going to discuss why you should create a personal learning plan.

With tech changing by the day, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with competing priorities. Since most of us in the tech industry are self-teaching we face a few challenges such as:

  • Resource Overload - we have so many places we can learn from

  • Overcommitting to our goals

  • Not setting clear goals in our learning

  • Not having a clear path (cert chasing)

A learning plan will help you prioritize your goals for certifications, work and personal passion projects. So how do you get started?

Make A List

Think of this as a brain dump of everything you want to learn in relation to your career. Include certifications, current work priorities (if your job is implementing a new technology that you want to/have to work on), and any passion projects.

Understand the Why

For work projects/skills, your why is pretty clear - complete the project. For the certifications and side projects you'll really want to hone in on what makes this worth the time. The why will help you prioritize your list. Research shows that we are more likely to reach our goals when we are intrinsically motivated. Meaning we are self-motivated by our own internal sense of mastery, and purpose. For example I'm learning python to prepare myself for the industry shift to automation. When you're setting these goals keep the acronym SMART in mind:

  • Specific: Identify why exactly what you are committing to these goals

  • Measurable: How do you know you're making progress? Break the goal down into smaller parts. If you're studying for a certification, break it down by chapters. Here's a great video on that.

  • Achievable: You need to be realistic. If you’ve struggled in the past, you need start out slow to build the initial habit and then work your way up.

  • Relevant: Remember that "why" we set earlier? This is where it comes into play. You are committing to this goal because you understand how it will impact and improve your life and career.

  • Timely: Set a due date! As you're building or strengthening the muscle, I suggest you start out with short term due dates. Example with learning python, I committed to the #100DaysOfCode Challenge which is just 1 hour a day. Small but helpful in building the skill.

Organize and Prioritize

Now that you've made your list, established your why let's get organized! You can use excel, an application like Trello or Asana or just plain old pen and paper. There are a couple of different ways you can organize this:

  • Group By Technology

  • Group By Training vs Certs

  • Group by Goal - example learning for work vs learning to expand skill set.

My Goals are organized based on technical areas with training being a separate to-do list. I don't have my priorities documented in Asana for now but you certainly could create columns for priorities. Once you have everything organized, you can tie timelines to everything. Be realistic! Take into account all of your other responsibilities and don't feel rushed. Also, be flexible. Adjust and improve as you go along.

How do you organize your learning? Comment or Tweet me @ccieby30!

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