Last week, I was discussing with a fellow woman in strata the uncanny ability we women have to de-prioritise our own personal development.

When I say “personal development” I mean things like: learning or practising a hobby, enrolling in a continuing education course, giving some time to a worthy cause, or even exercising.

Expanding the concept to “professional development” it may include things like attending a networking event, attending a conference or workshop, catching up with clients (or potential clients) over coffee.

Whether we work for ourselves or for others, I believe some of us have an unhelpful habit of placing too much emphasis on the traditional concept of ‘working’: being in the office with our backside on the chair; taking calls; bashing away at the keyboard; sending out invoices. For many of us, that is what real and important work looks like. Anything outside of this is a recipe for a serious load of guilt.

For others, the real and important work is what comes before and after. How do you find and secure those clients who will pay you to bash away for them? How do you establish the reputation that allows you to command a premium for your services? Where do you find the energy for all of the above?

Perhaps men have the answers to these questions. By making the time for golf days, sailing days and networking drinks, men (and the savvy women who join them) seem to be in a win win situation: while rewarding themselves with some of life’s finer things, they are at the same time cementing the connections that just might lead them on to the next big career milestone. Even if they don’t score a client, they return to the office revived, confident and ready to take on the world.

I believe that when we, as women, are constantly focussed on being there for others, whether they be our families, our friends, our clients or our employers, we are not only on the path to unhappiness, but we are stunting our personal and professional growth. A little time out for yourself goes a long way. When that time out takes the form of an enjoyable activity that is aligned with your business model, or has the potential to connect you with influential people, it can be life-changing.

Don’t feel guilty about taking time out for your personal or professional development. The next opportunity may be just around the corner, but you aren’t going to find it sitting at your desk. Get up and get going.

…and if anyone questions you, just tell them you’re off to a golf day. That seems to work.

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