Create Your Own Personal Learning Plan

Some time ago, I was looking at ways to be more productive in my work and learning; and one way I did this was to list down all the various tasks I needed to complete during the week.

Many of my tasks were simple To Do items, while others were actions to achieve a certain professional or personal goals.

I have written extensively on this blog (as well as shared videos) on how I use Trello to capture all the tasks and activities I do on a weekly and monthly basis for my own business. Each function such as Sales and Service; Website Management; Product Creation; Marketing; General Administration have a board of their own with lists of actions that need to be undertaken to automate and streamline them.

This method was one way I could ensure that I devote more time to the things I love which are Exploring (Tinkering), Sense-Making and Creating.

Understand Where You Like to Play

My favourite mode to be in (and if only people could just pay me to do this I’d be very happy) is Tinkering.

I can spend hours going down rabbit holes, downloading tools and apps, experimenting with how they’re used, connecting with people who use them well to learn how to use them, figure out why and how to use them for a personal learning context, hack them so I could use them in unique and different ways than how others are using them and then start the merry journey all over again.

But it’s not just a matter of simply exploring. I have to totally IMMERSE myself in it so that I have an experience and from this, CREATE something NEW from it.

One look at how my Snapchat foray in recent years has culminated into me being part of a global collaboration with others to create a popular weekly fake news channel CNT News Channel with a following on Snapchat is one example. There are others in my life such as getting involved with Learning Now TV as a roving reporter or setting up Third Place.

Make Learning Personal and Social…and FUN for You

I keep saying that Learning is Personal as it is Social.

If we’re not creating some new knowledge from our own learning process and then sharing this openly and publicly, we will miss out on opportunities that could have come our way.

It’s NOT about luck, it’s about how much you’re willing to put yourself out there, contribute, engage and help others in their journey too.

I’ve realised tinkering and creating are my strengths because when I reflected where I was getting feedback from people, it seemed to come from when they needed to ask me HOW these social tools and technologies could be used in EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT. That is, they wanted me to help them encourage their employees to create their own learning experiences from their everyday work simply because they had SEEN me do the same with mine.

The truth is, that tinkering and creating is my playground and it’s where I’m in a CONSTANT STATE OF FLOW. Hours seem to pass with a blink of an eyelid and at the end of the day where I’ve forgotten to eat, I’m buoyed up with enthusiasm because I’ve created something new and connected with different people outside my usual networks who have inspired me.

Tinkering for me is my own active learning strategy because I:

  • THINK about what I am doing
  • LEARN what problem it solves
  • IMMERSE myself into the social media, tool or platform in order for me to UNDERSTAND it
  • APPLY it to something in my world (give it context and applications)
  • RELATE it to something else that it may help with
  • CONNECT people who may need to know about it
  • CREATE something new and different (hopefully, with a bizarre and quirky twist to it because that’s my own signature to it)

Only after I do all these things would I be most comfortable trying to TEACH it to others or feel that I have some credible authority in being able to share it. Not before. And even then, you can never fully TEACH it because there’s always so much more to explore. I feel teaching is such a restrictive practice because I want people to EXPERIENCE it for themselves.

It’s a Catch-22 situation and the irony is not lost on me that nowadays, you never reach a level of Mastery. You’re constantly learning.

Similarly, when corporate clients ask me to help them with developing a strategy for engaging their employees with social media and networks to incorporate in their work and collaborations, the first step always seems to be to show the client how to do it for themselves first.

Amusingly, that’s where I lose many proposals for work (but that’s another story).

Pay Attention to Where You Spend Most Time

Back to my original story….

Having all these tasks and activities on the Trello board overwhelmed me because I couldn’t see WHERE I was spending most of my time.

That is, I needed some new form of categorisation beyond it being about PRODUCTIVITYand more about PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. My Trello boards were generating a state of “busyness” for me because they were simply To Do items without defining the WHY behind these actions.

How are these actions helping me to…

  • Learn faster
  • Work smarter
  • Think clearer
  • Connect the dots
  • Make me a better/different/improved person from one day to the next?

That’s when I noticed a pattern in my behaviours too.

If I was working in one element only, I began to feel frustrated and unproductive because my work seemed incomplete and rudderless.

It’s how I felt when I was working in the corporate world running from one meeting to the next. I wasn’t investing that time for myself to take in what I was learning and create something new from it.

For example, you can’t just be in ‘seeking ‘ mode collecting links and saving links never to look at them again. You need to DO something with them. They need to SOLVE a problem of some sort. You then have to CREATE some new system from them. That is, you’re in a state of constant knowledge creation.

It made me realise the importance that I place on PAYING ATTENTION to my own personal learning needs and to self-direct what it is I do every day that it has some RELEVANT and MEANINGFUL outcome for ME (which in turn will help my business or if you’re an employee, your company).

Use Personal Knowledge Mastery as Your Starting Point

Using Personal Knowledge Mastery and Harold Jarche’s Seek Sense Share Model I decided that this was going to be my starting point.

The model shows the three elements of Personal Knowledge Mastery as being Seeking out information, making sense of it and then sharing it. The model helps workers become smarter in their work because it helps them integrate learning and meaning into it. It’s a wonderful model to help you become self-directed to develop your skills and capabilities and to explore your talents and passions.

The idea of the model is that your knowledge is further amplified when you share what you learn to your network because not only is it an incredible act of generosity (which builds your trust and reputation), it opens up the lines of communications between teams, departments, organisations, industries, professions and countries. This in itself, broadens the conversations to bring in new insights and perspectives from which innovation happens.

Create Your Own Personal Learning Plan

With what I had read about PKM and by refining my own practice over the years, I needed to create something for myself. I created my “Personal Learning Plan Template” which is split into categories that make sense to me. At a glance, I can see what phase I’m in and where I’m spending most of my time.

The categories are:

  • To Explore [this is my seeking and researching phase where I go down my rabbit holes but first I need to have one kernel of an idea that takes shape, a sniff, before I’m let loose]
  • To Read [blog posts, books, articles and other material that I need to get through during the week — these are usually mind mapped]
  • To Contribute [tasks that require me to reply or comment on social networks]
  • To Create [creating new knowledge in forms of different content pieces]
  • To Reflect [sense-making through blogging and vlogging]
  • To Action [quick actions that don’t fit into the above]

One of the tasks that are missing from the Seek-Sense-Share Model, however, is CREATING (although you could argue that it could be under sense-making because when you’re in the process of creation, you are “giving life to your ideas”).

Create YOUR OWN Knowledge

Many people espouse less content creation and more content curation. However, I’m not of that mindset.

I believe that new knowledge CAN and MUST be created BY THE PERSON THEMSELVES and NOT done for them by someone else (say, for example within business, the Training or Marketing department).

That is, the employee must ENGAGE with the work experience and CREATE new knowledge from it. That knowledge is then “given life” by expressing it in some form of CONTENT.


Content can include Blogs, Videos, Job Aids; Audio recordings; Podcasts; Infographics; Presentations; Replies to blog posts; replies to ESN posts; anything really. Add a hashtag to the content you create and you can then use the filters to capture the threads of your work on the web and feed this into your own portfolio or body of work.

However, content types SHOULD NEVER be the focus here because it’s the intent behind the creation of it. That is if you’re asking the question, “how do we get our employees to create videos?” you’re asking the WRONG question. Never focus on the output — focus on helping people be inspired by the PROCESS and then let THEM decide how best to express it.

Similarly, content CANNOT be controlled, mandated, assessed or structured by Learning and Development. (Nor can they hand off what they used to do such as instructional design and content development of formal programs to done by the business wholly). Similarly, all content has a shelf life as you can see from the increase in Internet 404 errors online and with each year, this shelf life is reducing as I wrote in my blog post Curator Panics Over Link Rot.

So yes, encourage your people to SHARE THEIR KNOWLEDGE OPENLY AND FREELY and inspire a passion for them to create learning experience at work with others and through others but don’t control it.

Download the Resource

I have created this Personal Learning Plan as a downloadable free template should you wish to use it for your own purposes. I print off multiple copies and have them nearby near my computer and whenever something enters my mind, I quickly jot it down. It’s been a work-in-progress for nearly a year and I change it every so often but I’ve reached the point where I’m happy with it now.

I offer it to you but please, in the spirit of experimentation, give it a go changing it as you see fit to make it work for your needs then SHARE your experience with it.

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