1. Identify the Payoff
For a long time I wasn't really clear about why I was doing the diploma. At first it was because I was the education worker at the Permaculture Association and so it would be a 'good thing' if I had experience of the process and set a good example. This didn't particularly motivate me as there was no answer to "what's in it for me"?
After I started doing some teaching with others on PDCs, my reason for doing the diploma evolved into "so I can lead PDCs". But I mainly work with other teachers, many of whom are diploma holders anyway, so they can be the course leader and I can continue to teach alongside them and get paid. Again, I didn't have much incentive to finish.
Paradoxically, this took the pressure off me to finish and allowed me to focus on the learning and enjoying the process. As I started to enjoy the process more, I began to feel that I'd like to help others on the same journey and become a diploma tutor. I was able to visualise myself giving turorials and diversifying my poly-income a little more.
Now I really did have an incentive, which focused my mind and allowed me to prioritise diploma work over other things.
By really focusing on your own reasons for doing the diploma, identifying the benefits of finishing and visualising yourself afterwards, it can help to keep you on track and keep prioritising the diploma.
2. Build in Accountability
During my diploma journey my tutor withdrew from tutoring and I needed a new one. At the time Graham Burnett was re-entering the world of tutoring after a break. In his absence, the diploma had been upgraded and he needed to go through his tutor training pathway to be signed off as an accredited tutor under the new system.
Other ways of building in this kind of accountability might be:
- Make commitments to your design clients that you will implement the designs and provide a written evaluation. From there it's only a small step to add some narrative about how it fits into your diploma pathway and some reflection on what you learned.
- Committing to hand in your portfolio for assessment by a certain date so that your tutor can rely on the income from performing the assessment.
3. Get Competitive
One permaculture principle promotes cooperation, not competition. But like all principles, there are times when they're helpful and there are exceptions to them. And if we're using nature as a teacher, there are plenty of examples of competition out there, so for me it's a valid permaculture strategy.
At the 2013 National Diploma Gathering Graham told me that he'd set a date for two of his other apprentices to hand in their portfolios for their Interim assessments. While I wasn't trying to 'beat' anyone, I didn't want to be the laggard of the group, so I worked hard over the Christmas break to write up enough designs to hand in my portfolio. This in turn meant that I stopped obsessing over the details of the how to format my design write-ups, and allowed me to just get on with it.
One way to replicate this effect would be to agree within your peer group to set a date that you're all going to hand in your portfolios. Or at least to set a date when you'll all present a design to each other at a guild meeting.
4. Stack Functions/Obtain Extra Yields From the Work to Give Yourself More Reasons to do it
Because I was teaching on PDCs, I wanted case study material to teach to students. Whynot use my own designs? By deciding that my designs would also be used as teaching materials, I gave myself an incentive to write them up more quickly (i.e. so I could use them on courses) and to a quality that I'd be happy to present on courses.
After a long day at the office writing emails and funding applications, the last thing I want to do is come home and write up long-winded design reports. I'd far rather make pretty pictures and lay out pages with nice graphics. And as a picture tells a thousand words, using lots of annotated photograps, drawings and diagrams means MUCH less writing.
If the process of creating the portfolio itself feels like an indulgence, you're far more likely to want to do it in your free time. You could do this by thinking about creative processes that you enjoy and make that the basis of (or at least a major element of) your portfolio.
Other ways to do this might be use your portfolio as an opportunity to learn a new skill like building a website, making videos, or learning a CAD package.