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What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months? Your CPD record could be your secret weapon, says ICE Council member Jenny Cooke
Many of us make New Year's resolutions each year with good intentions (perhaps to lose weight or become more effective at work) but it's easy for these to end up being wishful thinking. But did you know that ICE has a scientifically proven method to help you achieve your professional goals this year? It might not look much, but it is certainly effective: your development action plan and CPD record.
A number of studies have shown that we can move from good intentions to actions with three simple steps:
Write down your goals and why they're important to you and/or your organisation. This is your development action plan. So for example, do you want to improve your knowledge of BIM due to a business need (e.g. more clients are asking for it now) or are you interested in possible career opportunities specialising in this area?
A clear definition of the desired outcome will also help you explain how you will know if you have achieved it, and over what timescale you need to work on it. This might be a company deadline for compliance with a given standard, or a personal goal such as achieving a professional qualification.
A written plan makes a big difference, particularly when you use it to consider potential barriers and resources required, so that you can develop a strategy to overcome them. One study (1) asked half of a group of elderly patients in Glasgow to write down a detailed plan before their hip operation about how they would keep up their rehab exercises each day, despite the pain involved. Three months later, the patients who had written a plan had recovered their strength and mobility twice as fast as those who attended the same rehab classes and physiotherapy but without making a written plan.
Hopefully opportunities to extend your knowledge and develop your skills aren't actually painful, but many people still find it hard to weave them regularly into their working life. One particularly effective way to do this is to consider cues which will help you get started by using a statement of the form "if/when this happens, then I will do that".
For example, a group of jobseekers (2) were challenged to write out their employment history to help prepare their CVs. Some of them also wrote a short "if/then" statement, e.g. "when lunch is finished and the canteen is quiet, then I'll sit at an empty table and get writing." By the end of the day, 80% of those who'd produced an "if/then" plan had also written out their employment history, while none of the control group had found the time or the inclination. Does this sound familiar to you?
Here are a few "if/then" statements I'm using this year:
Regular record keeping has been found to become a "keystone habit" that helps keep you on track, whatever your goals. For example, dieters who keep a food diary of everything they eat at least once a week lost twice as much weight as those who didn't, and researchers found a similar effect when people recorded their weight every day(1).
The CPD recording template gives you the chance not just to keep a regular record of your progress, but also to consider the effectiveness of what you have done, so that you can amend your plan accordingly. And here's my top tip: there is no rule that says you have to evaluate at the same time as you record the activity. In fact, many people find it more useful to quickly record events or books shortly after completion. Then review them every few months to comment on the effectiveness of their various activities having put the knowledge into practice. As a member of the CPD panel, I have read some searingly honest assessments during the annual CPD audit, which ranged from "just what I needed" to "boring", "repeated stuff I already knew" and "terrible networking opportunities"!
So why not give it a try today by downloading the ICE's CPD recording template or setting up your new year's goals in the CPD recording tool? You might just surprise yourself.
The studies referenced in this article are quoted in the following two books:
(1) The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg (Random House, 2012)
(2) Pre-Suasion, Robert Cialdini (Random House, 2016)