The Spaces Between: Taking time for your personal development

What if you spent 30 minutes on your personal development every day? Reading. Blogging. Journaling. Drawing. Imagining. Networking. Planning your future. A half hour. Every. Single. Day.

A friend recently told me that in a “How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile” seminar, she learned that we should spend a certain amount of time each day focused on our personal and professional development. Each day? Wow, that sounded like a lot. I mean seriously, how many meaningful moments do you average each day, working on developing your strengths? Or your resume? Or your network?  Pffft, my answer to the question wasn’t all that great, so I decided to try out the concept.


For one month, I’ve spent 30 minutes each day with focused attention on my personal development. Reading, writing, sharing, listening, and absorbing myself in energy focused on my growth as a professional and as a person. The results are predictably exciting and positive, but not for the reasons I’d expected.

Of course I learned a lot through tuning in to authors and speakers and mentors and idea-makers. But it wasn’t those active learning moments that made the biggest difference. It was the spaces bewteen that yielded a refreshing and unexpected rush of creativity, clarity and focus.

I believe that investing in your personal and professional growth is an iterative process best achieved through small, meaningful steps over time. Just like a great athlete or musician or speaker, it takes sustained and consistent effort to build the muscle memory needed to become fluent in any worthy pursuit. Intentional practice in directional increments is often said to be the secret to reaching a development goal. But I believe that in between those efforts of intention, the silent “pauses” are just as important. A pause can be a time of silent introspection or just a rest from the norm of day-to-day goal pursuit.

The pause is for me is about allowing thoughtful spaces between my rushed and hurried emails, calls, and meetings. It’s about protecting and valuing those spaces, rather than rushing to fill them with urgent-but-not-important matters…Allowing those spaces to be dedicated to developing my strengths and focusing on where I want to be, not just where I am.

English musician Gordon Sumner, better known as The Police’s Sting, once said,

“Paradoxically, I’m coming to believe in the importance of silence in music. The power of silence after a phrase of music for example; the dramatic silence after the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or the space between the notes of a Miles Davis solo. There is something very specific about a rest in music. You take your foot off the pedal and pay attention. I’m wondering whether, as musicians, the most important thing we do is merely to provide a frame for silence. I’m wondering if silence itself is perhaps the mystery at the heart of music? And is silence the most perfect music of all?”

What are you doing with the “spaces between” in your life?


20 Ways to Communicate With Employees

  1. Share credit. Always.
  2. Praise in public and give feedback in private.
  3. Include affected employees in goal setting. 
  4. Give frequent and meaningful recognition for a job well done.
  5. Interact with employees on an informal basis.
  6. Go to shared work areas. Meet them on their own turf.
  7. Ask for team members’ opinions and listen with an open mind. Try to understand their point of view.
  8. Share non-confidential information with team members, and ask for their input and response on issues.
  9. Offset demoralizing actions and events by emphasizing what went well, and use the experience as a learning opportunity.
  10. Listen 80% of the time and talk 20%.
  11. Ask team members what rumors they have heard, and address them.
  12. Get into the “trenches” with team members. Look for opportunities to understand employees’ jobs better.
  13. Give information to staff after management meetings.
  14. Ask team members. “Have I made our vision, mission, and goals clear and understandable?
  15. Ask team members, “What can I do to help you with your job, and what am I doing that gets in your way?”
  16. Ask team members”What is making our clients/customers the most and/or the least satisfied?”
  17. Find something to like about each team members with whom you work.
  18. Actively make a point of speaking to all employees seen each day.
  19. Build bridges with people with whom you are uncomfortable.
  20. Set goals each month on ways to accomplish “Managing by Walking Around.”
  21. Occasionally have lunch with team members.  Use this as an opportunity to build trust.

Adapted from “A Checklist for Managers,” by Robin Reid