Self-Improvement Projects That Won’t Take Over Your Life

Time management is a tough task. Many of us feel that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. When we have to maintain a healthy work-life balance, it becomes incredibly difficult to make time to grow your professional skills. No one is looking for more things to eat up time in the office, no matter if those things might be helpful or productive.

Government leaders are faced with this dilemma: how do they dedicate time to improving their leadership skills given the constraints of a 24-hour day and all of their prior obligations? Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, spoke with Christopher Dorobek for the show DorobekINSIDER, on the challenge of being pulled in so many directions.

Improving as a leader doesn’t have to mean hours out of your day. These endeavors can be short amounts of time, kept to a regular basis. The trick is multitasking. “Find 30 minutes to an hour once a week, once a day even, but just find some marginal amount of time that you can spend to develop yourself as a leader, and then figure out sort of what’s the right strategy to deploy within that timeframe,” Fox suggested.

First off, you have to target your efforts. What’s better for you – capitalizing on your professional strengths, or looking to improve your perceived weaknesses?

Fox said that there’s no real one answer to that question. “You may want to really focus on your strengths and find opportunities to leverage and use those strengths effectively,” he said. But at the same time, “If [your weaknesses] are a derailer, if it’s something that’s going to cost you and your ability to grow within your organization, then you definitely want to spend some time on that. Because even the greatest strengths you possess just may not overcome those weaknesses.”

So, what can this multitasking look like? You really can see personal growth without upending your schedule. Fox shared some ideas.

Read a book on leadership, Fox suggested. Build your reading time into your everyday routine, by reading at the gym, or listening to an audiobook as you commute to work or walk the dog.

Use Twitter to quickly identify useful resources. “In 140 characters, you can quickly discern if this is something you really want to spend some time on or not,” he said. He recommends following the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Fortune for particularly useful content for professional growth.

Instead of going alone, ask someone to join you for coffee. Having a mentor is a great tactic for professional growth, but it doesn’t have to be a full-blown mentor relationship. “Whether it’s a full mentoring relationship, or even just a onetime cup of coffee, I think there’s a lot be gained from that,” he said.

It’s always critical to be able to judge the return on your investment, and it helps to have feedback from others with whom you have an open relationship. “Be honest with them about what you’re working on, how you’re working on it… they’ll give you that real time feedback especially if you invite it,” he shared.

Professional growth and improvement is always a fantastic idea – at GovLoop, we try to get 1% better each day. But it’s common to get caught up in the traps of our everyday routines. With these pieces of advice from Tom Fox, we can hopefully achieve that 1% and still get to bed at a normal hour.

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