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The Big Question: How Do You Spend Your Time?

Last night I had a quick IM chat with Christine Martell, who asked me when I planned to re-join the online community--her way of pointing out that I've had my G-talk status on "invisible" for several weeks now, haven't done a Twitter update in 16 days and have clearly been remiss in posting here. So it was serendipitous to find that the Learning Circuits Big Question this month is "how do you spend your time?" And more specifically:

  • What's a typical day like?
  • How much time do you spend and how did you find time for all the relatively newer things like reading blogs, twitter, social networks, etc.?
  • What are you doing less of today than you were 3-5 years ago?
  • Do you have less of a life with all of these new things?

Given that I've not been organizing myself very well, it seemed appropriate to use the big question as a sort of check on myself. Here goes.

A Typical Day
Currently, I have several major projects going on for about 5 clients. I'm doing everything from facilitating and developing a strategic plan to designing a couple of training programs and setting up client blogs and social networks. Most of these projects need to be finished by June 30, which is the end of my clients' budget year. This does not include the myriad administrative things hanging over my head that are necessary to keep my business going--little things like invoicing.

I'm generally at my desk by 6:15 a.m. every day. This is when I routinely violate one of the first rules of time management by checking my email as soon as I plop my butt into the chair. I continue the email violations by monitoring my inbox throughout the day, just so I know what's there. This doesn't mean that I respond right away, but I seem to have this need to at least know what's coming in.

From there, I go to Netvibes, where I catch up on any news stories and try to read at least a few blogs. Lately I've had less time for reading and NO time for commenting, which is not a healthy state of affairs. However, I'm considering this to be a time-limited situation that I hope gets better in a few weeks.

The rest of my day is taken up with client calls and meetings, emails, writing/designing and responding to the latest client fire. I have moved firmly out of any strategic use of my time and am currently dwelling in that place known as "crisis management."

I am trying very hard to be finished by 5:30. At that point my brain is fried anyway and we're dealing with the law of diminishing returns. I'm also trying to reserve mornings for thinking and writing and afternoons for calls and meetings.  I've been less successful with that.

Time for Social Media

When things were calmer in my working life, I spent a good amount of time (10-15 hours a week?) on nurturing my online connections, reading and writing blog entries, responding to and making comments, etc. Considering that I work alone from home, this served not only as professional development, but also as a way to feel less isolated. Since January, though, I have found I have less and less time for these pursuits--and it shows. I'm feeling less creative, less energized and less connected.

I've been trying to find ways to kill two birds with one stone--hence blog entries that started out as work for clients, for example--but this isn't always working. What I loved about my first few years of blogging was that they opened up so many doors, both creatively and in terms of connections. Now, social media has become more of a means to an end (i.e., wikis for managing my projects), rather than opportunities for learning and exploration, which is really a shame. The nature of my work right now just isn't lending itself to the freshness I so prize.

What's Different Now Compared to 3-5 Years Ago

The biggest difference in my use of time is the sheer volume of things I do online. Five years ago, email and static websites were my primary online activities. Most of my work was done face-to-face, through calls or in Word.

In 2005, I started an art blog-- my first introduction to blogging--and by 2007, things really exploded with blogging, RSS, wikis, etc. I now manage most of my projects with wikis and all of my training sessions are accompanied by a wiki "handout" of resources, videos, slideshows, podcasts, etc. Although I've badmouthed Twitter on occasion, I am finding it a great source of links to really valuable blog posts, articles, etc., so I check it at least a few times a day. I'm less active in places like Facebook, but have used Ning to roll my own social networks for some client projects and it's been a great way to connect people. I'm also an avid fan of Netvibes, which with my Gmail account, is my online dashboard. And I can't say enought about the virtues of tools like IM and web conferencing for working remotely.

What I realize is that social media for me has become a fabulous tool that really informs my work practice. Although my personal professional development has suffered lately, I have still found blogging to be one of the best things I've ever done in terms of my own learning. It has also been the "home base" from which I've been able to launch tons of friendships, projects and opportunities. When it makes sense (and it usually does), I'm integrating some social media tool into virtually every piece of work that I do. This is a huge change from only a few years ago and one that has made a big difference in my life. 

On a purely practical level, I can't imagine doing my work now without social media as a backbone. However, I am not pleased that social media has become more utilitarian for me and that I have less time to reflect on the bigger ideas and questions that have always enthralled me in the past. 

I'm realizing there's no small irony in the fact that even though my clients are asking for and using social media on most of my projects with them, their use of the tools tends to be closed--private wikis, private Ning networks, etc. And in helping them set up their systems, I'm ending up neglecting my own.  That needs to be fixed.

So--that's how I'm spending my time right now. Would love to hear what you're doing.


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Interesting update! I'm spending more time on social networks inside the org than externally, which is great for now! We started a yammer group and several other initiatives. Being the sponsor and desiring to be very responsive, I have seen challenges to core taskings, but the rewards are visible. I'm thinking this stage is like this to your early blogging days.

Fantastic post! I'm glad you contributed. I'm learning a little bit from each person's post.

I got a dog on Saturday, and this helps pull me away from my office if only to take the dog on a walk. But email still takes up too much of my time, and I'm too hooked in to not look at it when it arrives, even though I find that I sometimes interrupt my work to find that it's only a piece of junk mail from some company that I once bought something from.

This week I'm following up with people I met at NAFSA. Next week I plan to write. I don't think I have a typical day, but I do spend lots of time on the computer.

Interesting post... social networking is becoming a big thing and it takes some time to remember days without these networks. :)

Kia ora Michele!

Good to learn what you're up to. I'm finding out more about webcams. I've just bought a webcam, my 1st at home, and installed Skype, so that'll be a learning experience for me. I'm really looking forward to Skyping with family members who live at the poles of the world. I have a grandchild I've never held and I want him to make funny faces for me to laugh at.

Catchya later

I find, like you, when I am under time pressure to complete a project (as I am now to complete my dissertation) I have to stop commenting. What is interesting is that other look at this "silence" as you not being part of the social community when in fact, it is just that you don't have time to comment. If there was just a way to capture the "lurkers" and what they are thinking. It demonstrates the importance in participating in conversations with others as I notice my "visitors" to the blog are influenced by my participation on other blogs, not on how frequently I post.

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