Mental load is ‘a thing’. A real thing that drags us into inertia when we really want to be up and running at speed. One of the many ‘things’ that suffer when we are under great mental load is our own professional development – the time and energy we should spend developing our own skills and capabilities. This week I delivered a webinar for the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) designed to unwrap and explain the Global Capabilities Framework, a guiding document that helps practitioners around the world determine what they need to learn or develop in order to become capable professional practitioners. Launched in 2018 following an extensive two year research project covering public relations and communications practice in every content, the Global Capabilities Framework was led by the UK’s University of Huddersfield in conjunction with the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (GA). It was the culmination of perhaps a decade of work by the world’s public relations community that looked to provide clear guidance for practitioners on professionals development pathways that could be adapted depending on country or cultural setting. Research was designed to answer some specific questions and issues that emerged at the 2016 meeting of GA leaders which in turn followed a series of workshops and investigations that began in 2013. Questions and issues included reputational issues for the profession as a whole, finding agreement on terminology, core duties and descriptors, variable access to training and education, complex social issues and relationships – there was an extensive remit.The end result provides a comprehensive guide to the capabilities practitioners need to develop in order to provide the best professional advice and value to their organisations. It also informs professional associations and the continuing professional development they provide so, for example, in late 2018 I aligned all of the CPD offerings from PRINZ to the new framework so that practitioners would have a clear understanding as to how any particular course, webinar or workshop contributed towards strengthening or developing their individual capabilities. I’ve also aligned all the courses offered here at PR Knowledge Hub so that content can reflect and build the capabilities we would expect from a professional practitioner.In the past – and this has been true the world over – professional development for public relations and communication management has focused pretty much entirely on skills – the things we do. We do many things and I’m sure you can rattle off a very long list of the things you do, which might include written, visual, digital, and oral communication, all sorts of content provision, research, measurement and evaluation, risk and issues management – your list will be as long as your arm, if not longer. The difference with the Global Capabilities Framework is that it covers our capabilities rather than specific skills and this was a very deliberate choice on the part of the research team. Their future focus makes the framework a very powerful tool and one that can help us structure our future learning.The framework is a great step forward but the biggest step has to be taken by individuals themselves. Making time to learn, to increase your knowledge, develop your understanding – none of these things are luxuries. They are essential if you are to stay relevant, stay up-to-date and meet the challenges of working in an environment where in order to properly serve our organisations and societies we must be prepared to learn something new every day.So my Christmas wish for you is that you are able to find the time to stop, look, plan and learn next year. I’ve just finished my twentieth year of continuously recorded professional development and I can honestly say I don’t regret a single second of the time I’ve spent. We are extraordinarily privileged to work in a profession that presents us with daily challenges and change that keeps us sharp and on our toes. But. If we really want to make a difference and help people keep their critical organisational relationships alive, we have to grow. To be open to learning and not leave things to chance. So, Merry Christmas – and best wishes for a mind-expanding 2020.