CPD: getting the best out of yourself

How past experiences can help you plan for future challenges

CPD Practice: getting the best out of yourself

Welcome to the first article in the 2019 Frontline CPD series. If you’re a regular reader of the series, you’ll notice that it has a particular style. That’s because the articles are designed to role-model the CPD reflective cycles we encourage you to use. It’s why, this time last year, I started with a personal piece that was a reflection on my own learning. And it’s why I wanted to offer another personal account this year. 

According to the ePortfolio data, many of you spent Christmas and New Year reflecting and forward planning. Like you, I’ve been doing the same – learning lessons from last year and thinking about what I want to achieve in 2019, including how I want to develop.

Last year was intense. With the changes to pre-registration funding in England, and the soon-to-be introduced degree apprenticeships, 
I didn’t see my desk much in 2018. My team and I waved occasionally in passing and when one of our colleagues left (for a fantastic new job), we each looked to hold the fort while the recruitment process kicked in. 

I say 2018 was intense, but I suspect I said that about 2017, and work will be just as busy in 2019. That’s the nature of work. For those of you who work in the NHS, the pressure of delivering services in a demanding environment brings with it a different set of challenges but, while our worlds are different, the points I share in this article will be applicable wherever you work.

In this issue, I’m picking up where we left off last year. You have had the opportunity to reflect and plan – now is the time for action. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Good intentions

I started a management development programme in 2018. It’s a two-year programme so I’ll be carrying on throughout 2019. Committing to dates in advance last year was challenging. I write a lot about the benefits of professional development but when I was given such an opportunity, I fell at the first hurdle. Instead of seeing the advantages, I looked at the growing list of what wouldn’t get done while I’m away and sighed inwardly. That leads me to my first point: it’s easy to make plans in January – New year’s resolutions, say – but when faced with the demands of the day job, those good intentions may falter in the light of other urgent and competing priorities. So my first point of learning is: it’s important to stay committed to what I’ve said I’ll do.

Be present 

As this programme is mandatory, it might be tempting to attend and simply carry on answering my emails during the breaks. But what would be the point? I’m in the fortunate position that my employer has supported me to prioritise this. It would be a wasted opportunity to be in the room but not be present. Initially, I needed to chivvy myself up to commit the time but once I was there I put my phone away, listened and learned. 

Take action

The programme I’m doing is workshop-based – excellent for ensuring that I’m fully present, but the real test has been what I do afterwards with what I’ve learned. For me, the most testing sessions have involved looking at myself. I don’t know about you but I find it easier to blame external factors for lack of change. So this was what I challenged myself to focus on: how do my behaviour and actions/inaction impact on others? I started off telling you about my intense year. By nature, I’m not one to sit around and don’t like being bored. But I realised last year that if I’m frazzled I’m no use to anyone. One of the modules focused on ‘Taking care of yourself’. This struck a chord. Diet – good (ish), exercise – good. Sleep, relaxing, switching off – not so much. Suddenly remembering a work problem at 2am – excellent! This wasn’t news to me but this time I decided to do something about it. A growing number of physiotherapy programmes focus on mindfulness to develop resilience in their students/graduates so that was my starting point – I downloaded an app to take me through guided meditations. 

Now what?

It’s still early days but while work continued to get busier towards the end of 2018, I haven’t felt so much pressure since I started the meditation a couple of months ago. I’m aware of it but haven’t been affected by it. Coming full circle back to my first point: I made a choice to commit to my own professional development even when I found it challenging. At that time I didn’t even know what the content of the programme I had signed up to would be, or what decisions I would make. If I hadn’t given myself a kick, I certainly wouldn’t have discovered that by slowing down, I would find a way to speed up in a more efficient manner. 

CPD activity 

So how does this apply to you? I’m not suggesting that this month’s activity is to take up mindfulness, but I hope the three principles I’ve described set you up for the coming year. Last month’s article recommended spending time planning for 2019. Today’s activity is simple: Take some time to think about what’s going to stop your good intentions becoming a reality. Can you put things in place now to help you bring them to fruition? It may be simple solutions – committing the time, finding a course that encourages participation, or just turning your phone or device off. Bookmark this page to return to it throughout the year. Remember whatever your CPD entails this year, be present and then act. 

You’ll find a range of reflective tools in the CSP ePortfolio hub to help you act, reflect on that action and repeat the cycle. Following these steps, I wish you a happy continuing development throughout 2019.

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