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Developing Your Personal Curriculum

It’s back to school time and even though I haven’t been in an official classroom in many years, I consider myself a life-long learner. One of my top core values is learning and personal growth. I find that many of the creative souls and entrepreneurs I work with value learning as well. Investing in your own personal and professional development helps you stay creatively stimulated, hone your craft, and enhance your business.

In a sea of information it can feel overwhelming to know what subject or what resource to dive into. Sometimes us life-long learners trick ourselves in thinking we need to go for that next certification, Masters, or PhD to truly know our stuff when all we really need to do is be creative and develop our own personal curriculum.

Mix and match resources that work for you and design your own learning plan. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

Make a list of the topics you want to learn more about. What are you curious about? What do you need to know more about to grow your business - marketing, finances, social media, hiring a team, or maybe product development? And hey, what would simply tickle your creative fancy?

Be clear on your desired outcome. Do you want to be an expert? Are you just broadening your horizons? Do you need to learn a specific skill to do better on the job or to grow your business?

Take into account how you learn. Are you an experiential learner? Do you do better with visuals or audio? Do you prefer an intensive program where you can stack everything back to back and get it done quickly or do you like to have things spread out so you have time to absorb? Would you prefer to learn solo at your own pace or together in a community? Is there a particular teacher who you resonate with?

Decide on how much you’re willing to invest. Focusing on your education means dedicating some level of time and money. Would you rather find free content online that you skim through 30 minutes each day? Or are you so super serious about building this skill that you’re willing to put down several thousand dollars for an intensive program?

Develop a timeline. Most likely you won’t be able to tackle all of the topics at once, so prioritize which ones would serve you best now. What are you 3-month, 6-month, 1-year, and 5-year personal curriculum plans?

Research options, identify your top choices, and take action. Based on your desired outcome, learning style, investment level, and timeline look into the different ways you could brush up on the topic(s). Maybe reading a book from the library will do. Or you can take an e-course, attend a seminar, or register for a teacher training or certification program, or hire a coach or mentor. Pick one or two resources and take action – sign-up, show up, do the work.

Find a study buddy. When my husband is learning a new programming language, he does video chat sessions with another coder and they program and problem-solve together. Carving out the time and having accountability with another person can accelerate your comprehension.

Apply what you’re learning. Don’t feel like you need to take every single class on the subject before you can actually do the work. Start using your newfound knowledge and skills now. In fact, you’ll most likely get better with practice, so practice away.

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  • Jen Young September 8, 2011, 11:17 am

    Great post, Jenn! There are so many information product offerings from great businesses out there that I find myself becoming an info-hoarder. My email inbox is overflowing with newsletters and freemiums that I don’t have time to really look at or study. I just got dazzled by the shiny new thing and added it to my collection.

    Your blueprint for building your own curriculum is a wonderful way to declutter and prioritize learning. I will be sure to follow it.

  • Jennifer Lee September 9, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Thanks, Jen! I know what you mean about info-hoarding. Yay for decluttering and prioritizing and learning!

  • Marlys Arnold September 4, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Love these tips! While I’ve been doing this basic process for the past several years, I had a similar problem to Jen Young … all the info was piling up. So recently, I tore all my random notes out of spiral notebooks and created binders with categories of various topics (content marketing, speaker tips, creating systems, etc.) and filed all the appropriate training notes & handouts. Now I can go back through the binders and review all my notes on one select topic and then create an action plan for it. I know a lot of times people talk about info-hoarding, but I see it as getting your ducks in a row for just the right time when you need to call them into action! 😉

  • Kim Smith September 4, 2013, 3:26 pm

    Love this post, Jenn! There are so many things I want to learn and it overwhelms me. I always end up getting too many books from the library on too many different topics. That only serves to overwhelm me and I end up avoiding it and return most library books late and unread.

    I am a true Renaissance soul and have so many interests. This is a blessing and a curse. Maybe (hopefully) this idea will help to make my Renaissance nature to no longer feel like a curse.

    What a great idea to create my own personal curriculum plan. I also love the idea of setting up a timeline. It’s almost like picking your classes in college and trying to arrange them in the appropriate order (100 level classes before 200 level classes, etc.).

    I’m going to work on my plan and post it somewhere that I will see it every day. Hmmm . . . maybe I’ll even post my personal curriculum plan to my blog for some accountability.

  • Leiah September 4, 2013, 3:34 pm

    This post is so timely and exactly what I needed! I’m always looking at online classes and e-books, and feel like I have a deep desire to learn, but I’m so disorganized about it! It would be super helpful to map it out, for real. Just like you would do if you were really in school, right? Great advice!

  • Erica October 13, 2013, 5:31 am

    I love the idea of being pro-active in creating your own curriculum. As others here have said, I often come across things on the web that are certainly very interesting & very useful, and so, I sign up……& the inbox fills up & overwhelms me! I love your idea of creating a personal curriculum because although the things I sign up for are both interesting & useful, they are not timely – they are not the skill that I need to learn at this point in my development. I will now endeavour to be more selective, seeking out what I need rather than taking what haphazardly comes my way…..however interesting it may seem!

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