by Julie Fiedler on September 19, 2017

Professional development seminar

As kids head back to school, I can’t help but feel a little envious. Whole worlds will open up. Fascinating information will be revealed. And they’ve got nothing but time to soak it all in.

Alas, the life of a busy professional doesn’t often allow for that kind of immersive learning experience. Sure, conferences are a great way to keep up-to-date and reignite your passion for what you do. But clearing your schedule — even for a few days — can be tough.

So, what can you do to stay fresh and energized in your industry in the midst of a packed schedule? Here are some ideas depending on how much time you can squeeze in, plus some recommendations from the New Boston crew about a few of our personal favorites!

If you have 5-15 minutes:

Email Newsletters

Not the ones you sign up for to get special promo codes at your favorite stores. No, we’re talking about those industry ones that hit your inbox and, if you’re lucky, you scan for a minute in the morning. Well, give yourself more than a minute to scan the headlines. Read the blurbs and click through. Pick interesting pieces, as well as tangential ones. Inspiration often comes when you least expect it!

  • Think with Google (Julie): Weekly graphic with insight into customer behavior and data, plus a link to a longer piece about the topic.
  • Research Buzz (Anne): Full of interesting tidbits about technology, social media and digital world — you never know what you’ll get!
  • Route Fifty (Lisa): Information on local government issues all over the country.

Online Articles

(Well, duh. We just told you to click through!) Try mixing up your normal sources. Ask colleagues to share interesting stories, and share with them. Visit a site you’ve been meaning to check out. Research organizations specifically for professionals in your industry or, if you’re already a member, check out their latest news. Set a timer and go down the internet rabbit hole on a topic.

  • Avinash Kausik’s Occam’s Razor (Andi): Breakdowns of data points and strategies from Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist. 
  • Fast Company (Lisa): A great business publication with a lot of design- and content-oriented material.
  • HOW Design and Ad Age (Susan): For trends in design and marketing and media news.

Connect on Social

Follow an industry-related group on LinkedIn or Facebook. Join in the conversation. We tell clients this all the time — it’s not just about broadcasting your information, but engaging with others. Ask questions, comment, click “like” on other people’s posts.

  • Premium Beat (Erin): Their posts cover a wide range of topics, from new equipment/technology innovations to motion graphics tutorials to lighting and color correction. (They also have a really solid blog.)
  • Facebook for Business News (Andi): Just like it sounds — the latest news that businesses active on Facebook should know.
  • Dribbble (yes, it has three b’s) and Behance (Stan): You’re probably familiar with Pinterest, but you might not know about these networks where you can browse projects and designers to see a variety of styles, techniques and approaches.

If you have 15-30 minutes:

Professional Speakers

You don’t have to travel to see those super awesome thought leaders speak in person. They can come to you, right on your desktop. Thanks, technology!

  • TED Talks (Lisa & Julie): No matter what your interests, chances are there’s a TED Talk out there that will help you see it in a whole new light. For example, What Physics Taught Me About Marketing.
  • If you think the TED Talk style is just a wee bit overdone, then you simply must watch this hilarious parody.
  • GoalCast (Julie): Quick shots of inspirational and motivational messages. (We put this in 15-30 minutes because chances are you won’t want to just watch one!)


Podcasts range in time from a few minutes to over an hour. You have access to any topic imaginable. Plus, they’re perfect for commutes!

  • On Being with Krista Tippett (Anne): Lots of smart, well-spoken people talking about their passions and delving into questions of human identity in today's world. (Anne especially recommends the episode with Danah Boyd from July 27, 2017, "The Internet of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".)
  • Note to Self (Julie): NPR’s WYNC Studios produces this podcast that explores the intersection of technology and humanity.
  • Death, Sex & Money (Julie): It may sound hardcore, but really it’s a frank, thoughtful exploration into taboo topics we all think about, but never discuss. Also from NPR’s WYNC Studios, this podcast features celebrities and real people and is absolutely fascinating.

How-to Videos

If you’re curious about something, chances are there’s a video out there explaining it, or delving deeper.

  • Moz Blog Whiteboard Friday (Andi): A weekly deep dive from Rand Fishkin, the Whiteboard features short, interesting, practical how-tos for SEO in both video and blog format.
  • YouTube (Tammy): A great repository of how-to videos. Need to do something specific like use a certain effect or tool in Photoshop or Illustrator? Search YouTube. (And, of course, show clips, music videos, funny cats … well, pretty much anything you can think of!)

If you have 30-60 minutes:

Training Programs

Sometimes those training programs come in the form of archived content. You can sign up for multiple classes and sessions that require a relatively short commitment over the course of multiple days or weeks.

  • Kelby One (Susan & Tammy): Courses for photography and software, including Photoshop and Lightroom.
  • Lynda (Julie, Erin & Anne): A great collection of online tutorials for a variety of creative and technical fields.


A lot of organizations offer free or very inexpensive webinars. Interacting live is a great way to get that back-to-school feeling.


Look at your industry or job from another perspective. Pick someone’s brain — whether a peer, your boss, or someone lower on the food chain than you are. Ask them to lunch, and tell them you want to talk about a specific topic. You can also ask if you can shadow them or attend a meeting you don’t normally go to. Sometimes just looking at the same situation through someone else’s eyes can invigorate you.

If you have an hour or more:

Books (e-, audio, or old-school)

  • Malcolm Gladwell (Julie): Social science is the name of the game in Gladwell’s books, which are full of fascinating anecdotes about human behavior. (Bonus: He does an excellent job narrating the audio books.)
  • A Book Apart (Stan): These books are simple, but in-depth enough to get going on a wide variety of design-related subject, either as refreshers, or to get up-to-date on new techniques and technologies.
  • Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited (Julie): An update to a classic guide on web usability.

Classes and Certification Programs

Consider augmenting your professional experience by taking a class or working toward a specialized certification. You’ll probably need to clear a regular spot on your calendar, but online education makes it easier than ever to work a course of study into your calendar.

  • Noble Desktop (Julie): Located in NYC, they offer free archives of some tech and design workshops online.
  • Colleges and Universities (Julie & Lisa): Many schools offer online and distance learning options these days across a wide variety of topics. It’s worth looking into programs where you can earn certifications or easily transfer credits to other schools. Check out Kansas State University’s award-winning Global Campus, for instance.

And, of course, there are conferences, workshops, and seminars, which are great if you can swing a day or more out of the office.

Keep at It

As much as possible, work these opportunities to stay fresh and current into your weekly or monthly schedule.

To save time, follow great sources and subscribe to their feeds or email newsletters. Something you discover in your 15- to 30-minute research window can become a 5- to 15-minute check-in next time. Even that long one-on-one lunch might become a quick coffee break with a handful of coworkers.

Make it easy to share information in your office. We recently implemented a project management tool with a dedicated spot to share anything from interesting articles to funny videos.

If you want to learn a thing or two about marketing, here are a few of our blogs that might be of interest: