I'm a big proponent of setting up your own personal learning projects and have been trying to keep something going for myself all the time. In keeping with this, a few weeks ago I announced my plans to explore how I could use different blog posting formats (list posts, research posts, link posts, etc.) to learn more about the needs and expectations of people who are new to social media. My intention was not only to invite others to participate with me, but also to give myself a kick in the pants to do the project by making a public announcement. Ah, the best laid plans . . .
I started out great, setting up a wiki and blog to support my project, developing a survey to send out, etc. But then things started to fall apart. Several work projects with deadlines intervened. I started planning for another career retreat and a couple of webinars for the spring. I was working with Shari and trying to keep up with my blogging here. Slowly, but surely, my interest in and ability to continue my little learning project waned. And here I am, nothing done on it for a few weeks and feeling a little guilty for not doing it.
At this point I'm not considering the project to be over. It's more that it's on hold for now, possibly to be returned to later, although in reality, it's also possible that it will hang out in cyberspace indefinitely. I thought it made sense at this point, though, to do a little reflecting on what happened (aside from the obvious fact that work and life intervened), so a few thoughts on how and why my project stalled:
- Unlike the 31 Days to a Better Blog project, I didn't set myself a time limit. I didn't feel like pressuring myself, but with no deadline--self-imposed or otherwise--it made it really easy to let things fall by the wayside. One thing I know is that when I don't have the intrinsic motivation (discussed in the second point below), I need some kind of external pressure, like a deadline, to keep me moving.
- Turns out that although I was initially very motivated both by my topic and the plan I had for exploring it, somehow along the way it didn't hold my interest as I thought it would. This isn't the first time for me. Many of my self-directed learning projects have started out strong, only to later fizzle as I realized they just didn't engage me as I'd thought they would. Interestingly, though, many of them do start back up later when something I see or read sparks new thinking and makes me consider things from another angle. I've been working on accepting that there are some learning situations where the timing isn't right, so I may have to return to the project later. It's hard, though, because I feel like once I've made the commitment, I should just keep going.
- Part of this was about priorities, too. Other learning opportunities presented themselves along the way and I decided that with limited time in the day, pursuing those made more sense, at least for where I am right now. For example, the webinars I'm planning are on telling stories about yourself with your online portfolio. This idea was actually sparked by Kivi Leroux Miller's learning project on storytelling, which she began, ironically, in response to my initial invitation for others to join me in my blogging for learning experiment. Once I saw this, I got interested in the possibilities of telling stories with an online portfolio, so exploring that became more important to me than my original experiment.
Although part of the reason for this post was to help me think through what happened with my stalled learning project so I could consider what I wanted to change for the next time, the other reason I wanted to blog this was to show how sometimes our projects can go astray and what we can do to deal with that. I, of course, could use this evaluation of where I'm at as a way to rejuvenate the project and get myself back on track, possibly with some modifications to my approach. Or I could do what I think makes sense for me right now--put this one on hold for awhile and return to it later when it better suits my learning needs.
One thing I've realized with setting up my personal learning projects is that there's a sort of ebb and flow to them that's similar to the creative ups and downs I often experience. I can fight that and end up with a project that feels very forced to me and therefore not very useful as a learning experience. Or I can accept those times when a project needs to go on the backburner as normal part of the process. This time I'm choosing the latter.