I recently wrote about transparency, and in my comments, the discussion moved to finding balance, managing work, home, and finding strategies to being more accessible, but mindful that we need to be present in our non-work lives. In looking at many of those using social media in education, the common denominator was – we have young families – making this issue/concern even more relevant.
The question: “How do you find the time?” is one I am asked, more than any other, from educators interested in social media. I also hear more from educators worried about expanding their accessibility online, ”I just don’t have the time for it.” To be clear and upfront, it takes time to build as well as participate in the community online. There are no promises that being accessible, modelling the use of social media, and engaging with others online, will reduce your work hours. Then again, we don’t need to sell everything in life with a promise it will allow us to work less. There are many other motivators than the “promise of less work” in our lives.
I don’ t have the answers, but as with my blog on Transparency, I do have an emerging list of beliefs and strategies to make sense of my work/non-work relationships.
Building on a response to Chris Wejr on my blog, here are some principles/strategies which guide me:
1) I have no idea what it means to have a work/home balance, so I’ve given up on talking about this notion. More and more, work is not about a place — my office is very often my phone and it can just as easily be in my den at home, or my car (hands free) as it can be my business office. I love the ability to jump in and out of work at home. Technology no longer forces us to stay at the office late every night. There are times we can go home early, spend time with our families, and go back to “work” later that night.
2) I block out time on my calendar that is virtually non-negotiable as private time. It is not a lot of time, but it is consistent every week.
3) While I play, learn and engage in social media, I limit the tools I use. I don’t know how some people participate in so many places. In my non-work life I participate in Facebook, and in my work-life I engage in Twitter and through my blog (and others blogs).
4) Every way I interact digitally (not face-to-face) can be done through my mobile device. I encourage people to call my cell or text me, and I have access to my blog and Twitter through my mobile device. I don’t need to be in any one particular place to be working. I can’t imagine having to come into “work” on a Sunday to do work.
5) Sunday is my writing day. I often post one or two times a week, but the draft posts are written on Sundays. I don’t have time during the week to write, but there is also value in not making postings too close together – so I try to be strategic about when I write and when I publish. I tend not to write “news” posts (except on topics like PISA), so the timing is often not crucial.
6) I commit to commenting on five posts for every one I write. On Sundays, I also read what others are saying, and often, my thoughts. I tend to prioritize local (BC) bloggers, and those in similar roles. I see this as part of being engaged with the online community, so I set time aside for it.
7) I organize Twitter. I am often asked, “how do you follow 400 people?” I use TweetDeck and have a series of columns. Right now, I am following bced and cpchat, as well as several specific lists. I also accept I will not see everything posted from everyone. I will often drop in to Twitter at lunch, or when I have a few minutes before a meeting, but I don’t get excited about missing something. And, while I know the research about multi-tasking, I will usually have it on as background noise at night when I work.
8) I don’t do things other people do. For one, I don’t write newsletters. It is about choices. I find the learning from Twitter, and the reach and conversations through blogging, to be extremely powerful. Conversations in social media domains can help lead the narrative in our schools and community.
9) I define my work day online. Unless it is urgent, I will usually not e-mail members of the community outside of extended business hours (e.g. no e-mails at noon on Saturday from my son’s soccer game). I might write the e-mail but will delay the sending of it. Of course, if it is urgent, I respond immediately. I just don’t want to get into a back-and-forth e-mail conversation while standing on the soccer sidelines.
10) I really see technology as largely invisible. I don’t think of being on-line or off-line. I tend to always be connected and, very often, being habitually online saves a lot of time longterm – solving issues before they become problems.
Finally – I signed up for busy – when I applied for my job and had a family. Work keeps me out most Monday to Thursday nights – but I try to find ways to include my family (for example, I will take my kids with me to school plays). Like so many of us, I don’t sleep a lot – but love it. As I said in a previous post, “Hey, my choice.”