I recently came across an online pole asking what’s the biggest obstacle to you investing in your own development. I was jarred by the #1 response “I don’t have time.” 41% of the respondents gave this as their reason.

Biggest Obstacle Graph

I know we are busy, everyone is busy. But to say that you don’t have time to invest in yourself is admitting defeat. It is saying that you are not putting a priority on yourself.

You don’t have time not to invest in your own development. If you don’t make it your priority no one else will. You are accountable for your own success.

Many people don’t have a career development plan because they rely on the organization they serve to provide opportunities. Most of the time opportunities provided by your organization are aligned with the company’s goals not your specific performance improvement needs for skills and experience. In today’s global market, you can no longer afford to wait for your employer to invest in your professional growth and development. In today’s economic reality some employers are eliminating or limiting the number of dollars allocated to such opportunities.

With this new reality, it becomes more imperative that each of us takes responsibility for our own development. Here are three ways to become a lifelong learner.

Online Learning, most professional organizations offer either on-demand training or webinars, make use of these. Webinars, can be an effective learning tool, unless you use the time to multi-task. Reading/answering email, working on spreadsheets or rummaging through the piles on your desk to find something diverts your attention and diminishes the value of the webinar. Devote your full attention to the presentation. There are also online services, one of the largest and most well-known of these is Lynda.com. You can find a variety of personal and professional development opportunities online.

Books and Professional Journals/Magazines, reading is one of the best ways to learn. Make it a priority to read at least one current book and two journals each month. I know I can hear you now “I don’t have time to read!” Get books on CD or subscribe to Audible to get books on-the-go. Make use of your commute time, you can most likely get through a book a week just by using your commute.

Attending conferences, seek out professional conferences, association meetings they are excellent opportunities to gain knowledge about the latest trends in your profession. Analyze the conference schedule to make sure you attend the sessions that will benefit you most.

Whether it involves attending conferences, taking academic development courses, participating in webinars, reading books or joining an online community, professional development is meaningful and essential in ensuring you are doing what it takes to be top notch.

Professional development is your responsibility, if you don’t set it as a priority you will fall behind your peers and struggle to reach the next level in your profession.  In the words of Jim Rohn, “Formal education will make a living, self-education will make a you a fortune.”