Many of us are experiencing an enforced staycation right now. Whether we’re working from home, working fewer hours, or out of work entirely, life looks a little different than it used to. It’s easy to give in to the siren call of the couch, watching videos on demand, and ordering dinner on demand. You can take time to relax, but use the opportunity to work toward your professional goals, too. … Development on demand, if you will.
Despite social distancing, the world is more connected than ever before. Virtually everything is going virtual, from livestreamed concerts to online exercise classes. Time and space are no longer quite the constraints that they used to be—use this to your advantage! Here are some ideas to get you started.
Keep your commute
One huge advantage of #StayingHome is the fact that you don’t have to commute. No more sitting in rush-hour traffic with the rest of the rat race, no more drive-through coffee with an ill-fitting lid. … You’re saving time, tire tread, and wear-and-tear on your nerves.
But commutes aren’t all bad. For one thing, they ease you into (and out of) the workday. As such, they are a great block of time to use for learning—for engaging your brain and getting ready for action. Don’t get into the habit of rolling out of bed and directly over to your laptop (for one thing, that would indicate that you’ve skipped getting dressed, and the Golden Rule for working at home is “Put on pants”)— replace your morning commute time with developing skills that will help you grow, both personally and professionally.
Whether you want to learn Python, Portuguese, or the piano, the internet is full of resources, from e-books to online tutorials. Spend your mornings learning new skills while enjoying your coffee out of a real mug! For bonus points, create a habit that you can transfer seamlessly into your “real” commute once you’re back out on the road—listening to skill-shaping podcasts, for instance.
Attend a (video) conference
One of the best ways to develop professionally is to attend conferences and seminars in your field. This year, many conferences are cancelled or postponed, but some are moving online.
Check the status of the major conferences in your industry, and if there’s a virtual attendance option, sign up! Many online conferences offer free access to breakout sessions and keynote addresses, but even if there’s a registration fee, you’ll still be saving the airfare and hotel costs, plus travel time. It might not be exactly the same as attending in person, but you’ll get all of the information, and how many more branded pens and stress balls do you actually need?
Visit a Toastmasters club meeting—anytime, anywhere
There are Toastmasters meetings taking place at all times of the day in 143 countries and in dozens of languages. Find an online meeting in Mexico City or Barcelona to work on your Spanish-speaking skills, or practice your French with a club in Quebec or Paris. Besides the listening comprehension and speaking skills practice, you’ll likely get a flavor of the local culture that you wouldn’t find in a traditional language course.
Visiting an online meeting also means multiple time zones. If you’re a night owl in New York, try an evening meeting in Los Angeles. If you’re an early bird in Europe, look for a lunchtime club in Japan. Even if you stick to a local club—attractive because you can join in-person soon—you’ll likely find it much easier to make time when you don’t have to brave evening traffic jams or kill that awkward hour between work and the meeting. And if you’re not ready to make a commitment quite yet, you can also check out Fast Track for a bite-sized dose of what Toastmasters has to offer.
Cast the net(work) wide
Sure, it’s nicer to chat in real life, but when that’s not an option, the world is your oyster. A Zoom or Skype call works just as well whether your conversation partner is across town or across an ocean.
Scroll through your LinkedIn network or flip through your Rolodex and contact people you haven’t talked to for a while. Challenge yourself to go back in time (Whatever happened with that business your buddy started in college?) and far afield (How is your favorite colleague from the German office?).
Whether you want to learn Python, Portuguese, or the piano, the internet is full of resources, from e-books to online tutorials.
It’s also a great time to make new contacts. Find someone in your field that you admire, and ask if they have time for a conversation. They likely have more time on their hands these days, too, and a Zoom call is far less commitment than coffee or lunch. Be bold! It may not pay off every time, but not asking has a zero-percent probability of success.
Today, we can do almost anything online. If you’re stuck at home, take advantage of the extra time and virtual opportunities to learn new skills and connect with people. Don’t limit yourself to streaming videos, food delivery, and same-day shipping; use this opportunity to advance toward your professional goals. Invest in yourself now so, when the time comes to emerge, you’ll be even stronger than when you started.
Megan Preston Meyer is a member of TM International Zug in Zug, Switzerland, and a regular contributor to Toastmaster Magazine. She holds an MBA, worked for nearly a decade in analytics and insights, and now focuses on the stories that data doesn’t tell.