I often go to great conferences or solid professional development sessions. I leave the sessions with great ideas for things to do. Then I get busy doing the next thing, or attending the next meeting, and I don’t start acting on the learning or developing the ideas. Just from a time perspective, I know that I don’t have time to act on everything, but sometimes the ideas are easy to act on, won’t take much time, or just need a little momentum to get going on.
For the past few years I’ve been working to remedy this, and I’ve come up with several ideas to help bridge the gap between learning and action. Here are my current thoughts.
• When developing sessions, build in a final 5-10 minutes for participants to take action steps. Instead of ending with Q & A, end with time for purposeful action. Actually start working on the idea. Most projects start with some simple steps: check out a website, write an email, develop a thought, etc. This allows for direct bridging between ideas and action. Tell participants about this up front, before the session starts. If time doesn’t permit this, at least end with a couple of minutes that asks participants to talk about some action they’ll take based on what they learned.
(This idea comes from our work with FourSight. Thanks!)
• When attending sessions, at a minimum, keep a running list of things to act on. I do this at every conference I go to, and it helps a lot at the end to be able to go back and quickly run through the things I hope to do. By the end a conference, honestly, they’ll be too many things on the list to ever do in my lifetime, so I usually end up prioritizing and trimming the list by half or more.
• Tenaciously start acting on the running list of things to do. Schedule time for myself to take action as soon as possible after the end of any session or conference. I’ve found that the more I make this a habit, the better results I get.
• Have an action mindset. It’s easy as educators to learn for learning’s sake, so I constantly try to think about how I can use the learning, what can I do to make an idea a reality, what steps can I take to make something tangible out of the learning. This one is probably the hardest for me, because I enjoy brainstorming so much, but I’ve found that I’m getting better over time at staying in a more balanced thinking/action mindset.