In higher education, whether you’re a faculty member, an administrator, an independent scholar, a student, or some combination of all of the above: you’re always learning. Learning is part of what we do. Some of this is built in; we learn about new developments in our fields to be able to teach or write, we learn new areas of expertise in order to be able to launch a new research project, we learn new pedagogical strategies to keep our students engaged. Learning is how we grow professionally and personally—and we must be pretty good at it, or we wouldn’t have gotten into this business in the first place.
But as the list above might suggest, we also have many irons in the fire; sometimes we are called upon to juggle them expertly at the very moment the fire starts raging out of control. In other words, we’re busy. We have tight schedules. We want to make, we want to do, we want to learn, but we probably already have meetings scheduled into 2016, so how do we make time for growth?
This piece by Elizabeth Grace Saunders for the Harvard Business Review blog offers concrete reasons why finding time for growth assignments in your daily work life is essential, and presents concrete advice on how to do it. She outlines clearly defined steps:
- Find the growth opportunities;
- Look for the greatest value: which growth opportunity will provide the most future payoff?
- Define the directions you need to give yourself to achieve the goal of learning the new thing;
- Decide on acceptable minimums: what’s the minimum amount of time you want to spend on this to achieve maximum benefit?
We at University of Venus would like to set our readers a fall challenge (see here  for our previous fall challenge). This fall, we invite you to identify a growth assignment for yourself, and figure out a way to make time for it. Where do you see an opportunity for growth? Is it a new research project? A new skill? A new teaching strategy? Learning about a new trend or development that might help you do your job better? Then: how will you fit it into your schedule? Finally: what value do you hope to get out of this growth assignment? How do you envision it enriching your personal or professional life?
We’ll kick off the fall challenge in two places: here and in our first #femlead chat of the fall on September 9. University of Venus writers will update in blog posts throughout the fall, and we invite readers to share thoughts and comments here and on Twitter. Then, in December, we’ll have a roundup of struggles and success stories along with a closing #femlead chat on December 2.
Good luck with the fall semester, and with your challenge!
Chester, Pennsylvania in the US.
Janine Utell is Chair and Associate Professor of English at Widener University and a regular contributor at University of Venus.  She can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org ; follow her on Twitter @janineutell .