Nine Personal Development Techniques Worth Your Time

This post was originally written by the Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council and can be found on The Expert Panel is comprised of the top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council, offering firsthand insights on leadership.

It’s tough to find a business leader with a lot of free time on their hands. Whether they’re attending meetings, answering emails or handling their day-to-day company duties, most of their day is jam-packed with obligations. However, it’s important for even the busiest executives to clear some room in their day or week for personal development.

To help you fit this essential activity into your schedule, we asked a panel of Forbes Coaches Council members to share strategies and techniques they often recommend to busy leaders. Here is what they advise trying:

1. Practice The Pause

A pause is a powerful tool. It expresses listening, demonstrates self-control and shows your team members that stopping to think before acting is an important, strategic step. Learn to pause before you react so that you can instead respond. Pause so you can stop and think. Pause so the other person can see that you have heard them. Pause to slow down and enjoy the moments of your life. Pausing helps us grow in discernment. It is the wise leader who pauses. – Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Voltage Leadership Consulting

2. Schedule Your Personal Time Just Like Business Meetings

The most useful and easy-to-apply personal development technique is scheduling your personal time. Most executives don’t want to deliberately fail at something so easy, so they are more apt to follow through. This approach is valuable because it helps to create a habit and is likely something they can pass on to those they mentor and lower-level employees. – Sandra Hill, New Horizen Coaching & Professional Growth Advancement, LLC

3. Work On Your Self-Awareness

Improving self-awareness is a crucial part of personal and professional development. Being able to accurately recognize your feelings and potential capacities is the gateway to success. For many busy executives, regular feedback is non-existent. However, when you are high in the ranks of leadership, it becomes a responsibility to proactively seek and generously accept constructive criticism. – Roberta Moore, The EQ-i Coach

4. Choose How You Use Your Time

When faced with a new opportunity, ask yourself, “If I say ‘yes’ to this opportunity, what am I automatically saying ‘no’ to?” And yes, naps and Netflix count. You can do almost anything, but not everything at the same time. Choose wisely. – Lizette Ojeda, Thrive Minds

5. Ask A Colleague To Be Your Informal Coach

Seek feedback related to a specific development goal you are working on. For example, if I want to tone down my visual and vocal communication in team meetings, I ask a colleague to observe my body language and comments, and then give me their feedback after the meeting. For this to be effective, my informal “coach” is someone who is comfortable being candid and as objective as possible with their feedback. Then I have some data to consider as I review my own meeting behavior. I might also want my “informal” coach to be different in style from me so that I get a broader perspective. – Mary Camuto, MC Consulting

6. Spend 30 Minutes A Day Learning

I recommend 30 minutes a day of reading and/or listening to a video or a podcast on a business topic. Over time, this is extremely valuable, as leaders will learn new perspectives and broaden their worldview. – Natalie Doyle Oldfied, Success Through Trust Inc.

7. Identify Top Needs And Goals

I often ask people to prioritize their top three personal needs or goals and then rate their performance in these areas from 1-10, with 10 being fantastic and 1 being awful. Once they do that, I ask them to identify two specific action steps they can take in the next 7 days with their top priority. We then make sure to operationalize, so they have concrete steps to accomplish them. They know I will follow up with them to see how it went, what worked and what did not, and reset the goals for the next week. This process often reveals where they are stuck and the underlying obstacles they need to address to be the person they want to be. – Catherine Hickem, The Dash Group

8. Take Deep Breaths

I recommend a technique for transitioning during a busy day: Before you move on to your next meeting, take one minute to pause, take some deep breaths and clear the mind. Then reflect silently for one minute on your intention for your next engagement. “What am I trying to achieve? What might be important to other people? How do I want to show up as a leader?” Jot down some notes as reminders to yourself before you enter your next conversation or meeting. Notice how this simple practice impacts your ability to focus. – Valerie Lingeman, Double Helix Learning LLC

9. Constantly Evaluate Your Time Objectives

For most people, time runs them when they don’t run their time. We are truly creatures of habit and with all of life’s ebbs and flows, so we also need to be re-evaluating and repositioning our time objectives. It is valuable, so make sure you are enjoying this journey in life and not just becoming a gerbil on a treadmill. Prioritize your current desires and needs to step into the future with more ease and joy. – Shellie Hunt, Success is by Design

Valerie Lingeman coaches leaders, teams, and groups who are committed to growth, learning, and positive change.  She believes that producing impact and being happy at work are not mutually exclusive, and she helps her clients reach for both.   

Contact Valerie at | 202.276.6116.

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