Professional development isn't just about the answers. It's also about questions. You can learn a lot from the questions you ask. They can tell you about patterns in your work and in your thinking about your work. They can point you in new directions or show you where you may be feeling stagnant. Questions are what drive and motivate us. But we have to notice the questions to do anything with them.
A Question Log can be a great way to begin your positive professional development journey. It is merely a log of the questions that occur to you during the day.
Noticing and Logging Your Questions
The first trick to keeping a Question Log is to get in the habit of noticing your questions. For many of us, questions zip through our brains without us even realizing them. Make it an intentional practice to notice the questions you are asking yourself. Or try stopping once an hour and reflecting on what questions occurred to you recently. Noticing your questions is a practice you may have to build.
To record your questions, I suggest getting a small notebook or a series of index cards to carry with you at all times. As questions occur, jot them down, along with the date.
Alternatively, you can use your Droid or iPhone. Send an email to yourself as questions come up. The question can go in the subject line and any additional notes or thoughts can go in the body of the email. You can organize these into a folder or Gmail label called "Questions."
Working with Your Questions
Periodically (perhaps as one of your weekly rituals), review your questions. Look for patterns.
- Are you asking questions about particular people or particular aspects of your work?
- Are you asking big questions or small ones?
- Are they "negative questions," with a focus on problems, what isn't working and how you can get less of something in your life? Or are they positive questions that ask you to consider what is working and how you can get more of certain things?
- What do your questions tell you about your concerns and fears?
- What do they tell you about your hopes and dreams?
I've learned a lot from working with my questions. They tell me when I'm down in the weeds of a problem and maybe need to take a step back. They show me when I'm too focused on worrying and need to spend some time on reframing to look for opportunities and lessons. My questions also let me know when I need to make some changes. Sometimes these are small course corrections, but sometimes they are bigger, meatier changes.
I think we can get caught up in trying to find answers, so that we lose sight of how our questions can help us understand where we're at and what we need or want to do. The more we pay attention to our questions, the more comfortable we become with having them in our lives. In an uncertain world, this is a skill we need to cultivate.