Reclaim Back to School: Stay Energized, Relevant and Top of Your Game

Our daughter, Charlotte, started fourth grade today, and the pumped-up energy at line up this morning got me thinking.

Back to school is one of the definers of fall as we know it—right up there with apples, the changing of the leaves and Halloween.

Here were all these kids marching into the unknown for nine months of learning and growth. Some were thrilled to be starting again (that’s Charlotte, who’s among the few who lust for all-year-round school), others were longing for the pool or camp; but all have this incredible opportunity to be exposed to new content, to digest it in the context of what they know now, and to come out the other side with a way of looking at the world. 9 months to a new world view!

Most of us don’t have this kind of formal growth opportunity, but ongoing intellectual and creative growth is vital for all of us. It’s the ONLY way to ensure our marketing and fundraising content is relevant, and a vital way to ensure our own satisfaction.

So I urge you to reclaim back to school for yourself. Schedule some learning—via conversations, reading, participating—into every day, even if for just five minutes. Learning is energizing, positive and productive. But you have to make it happen.

Here are the five main ways I keep learning:

  1. Reading (and watching) content (blogs, e-newsletters, social media, books, videos) in the field, from nonprofits in all sectors, and from expert marketers—in the nonprofit world and beyond—and fundraisers. This helps me keep current on trends, models, needs, tools and news.
  2. Scanning the world news, and processing how it’s affecting your work, and the perspectives of the folks your organizations strive to connect with.
  3. Participating in hands-on group workshops and webinars, so I’m doing rather than just digesting. For me, the doing reinforces learning like nothing else.
  4. Pushing myself to take on the next new challenge, and making sure there’s always a “next challenge” to tackle. I’m focusing right now on developing several new training modules, and a new small-group online learning program.
  5. Synthesizing what I learn with what I know, and sharing that out with you in blog posts, e-enews articles, speaking gigs and trainings. This is the lynchpin of my learning program, pushing me to put it all together…for you!

I guarantee I get my learning by scheduling it every day, in “ink” on the calendar. Otherwise it would never happen. For example, I start every morning by scanning the world news, and blogs and other content from the field. I recommend you do the same.

Reclaim back to school as your own, starting today. Schedule it in to stimulate your mind and soul, keep on top of the world you’re working in (and communicating into), refine your perspective, and build your expertise and impact—all prerequisites to creating the relevant content and calls to action that best engage the folks whose help you need to move your mission forward!

How do you keep learning, even when your professional development budget is zilch? Please share your learning habits here.

P.S. Get 129 top learning picks from nonprofit leaders around the world. Download our free e-guide today: The Book That Changed My Life.

Nancy Schwartz on September 6, 2012 in Professional Development | 0 comments

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