Tag: hiatus (page 1 of 2)

Why I didn’t go on ‘Belshaw Black Ops’ at the end of 2017

At the end of every year since 2010 I have, to the greatest extent possible, disappeared back into the analogue world to recharge. This has been known as Belshaw Black Ops after Paul Lewis decided that just calling it a ‘hiatus’ wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll enough.

I’ve greatly appreciated these periods away from social media, blogging, and personal email as a time when I can be ‘more myself’. Why, then, a few people have asked me, didn’t I continue this routine at the end of 2017? The simple answer is that I’ve achieved the kind of balance that means it didn’t feel necessary.

There are a number of factors here:

  1. Switching from Twitter to social.coop half-way through the year. Given that I still get the most-shared stuff from my Twitter network filtering through to me via Nuzzel, that’s been a revelation.
  2. Looking after myself a bit better health-wise, including deciding to follow a mostly plant-based diet, starting running again, and taking supplements such as multivitamins, high doses of Vitamin D, and L-Theanine.
  3. Enjoying the sunnier weather where I live (it makes a difference!)
  4. Blogging in a more short-form way via Discours.es and Thought Shrapnel Live!
  5. Prioritising what’s important in my life. I find reading Stoic philosophy every morning helps greatly in that regard.

Today is my first day back as an employee. I’m working for Moodle, makers of the world’s largest (open source!) learning platform. I’m working four days per week leading an innovation project for them aimed at creating a new open social media platform for educators, focused on professional development and open content. I’ll still be consulting through We Are Open Co-op.

It was my birthday just before Christmas, and I’ve now spent most of my thirties working from home. There’s benefits and drawbacks to doing so, but the main upside for me is much more control over my schedule. I’ll still have a lot of autonomy at Moodle, so I anticipate that, while I’ll be away during the summer, there won’t be a need for Belshaw Black Ops in 2018, either.

Photo by Paul Green available under a CC0 license

#BelshawBlacksOps16 (Pt.2) has begun. See you in 2017!

As usual, I’m taking December off from social media, personal email, blogging, podcast-recording, and newsletter-writing. You may still see some of my stuff published if I’m doing some work for a client, but that’s it. You can still contact me via my Dynamic Skillset or We Are Open Co-op email addresses, but keep it work-related please.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to my digital hiatus this year. What a year 2016 has been! I think we’re all suffering from mild collective  PTSD. I’ll be spending December resting more, spending more time with my family, and taking the opportunity to think more deeply about things I’ve put on hold for too long.

If you’ve got some potential work for me in early 2017, please do get in touch before Christmas. I’ve enjoyed helping clients with a whole range of things this year — edtech strategy, digital skills/literacies, Open Badges. I guess, in general, I translate things that could be seen as complicated into things that are easier to understand.

One of the best things to have happened this year is that a few of us founded a co-op called We Are Open. That’s been a ray of sunshine in a year of trouble within the wider world. So my joyful thanks to co-founders Bryan, John, and Laura for keeping me sane.

My biggest thank you, however, is reserved for my wonderful wife, who not only has had to come to terms with the ups-and-downs of me being self-employed over the last 18 months, but has stepped up to do the admin and finances for both my consultancy and the co-op. Thank you, Hannah. You’re awesome.

See you all in 2017! If you tend to celebrate them, I hope you enjoy both Christmas and New Year.

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps16 (Part 2)

In a little over two weeks it will be December. For those who have followed my work for a year or more, you know what that means: I go ‘dark’. No personal email, blogging, or newsletter from me for the entire month.

I’ll still be working, so remain available via my consultancy, Dynamic Skillset, as well as via my We Are Open co-op email address. You may see the occasional article that clients have paid me to write popping up via various channels, too. The important thing is that I step out of the stream for a while, going more ‘read-only’.


While I’ve got your attention, I’d like to give you a quick heads-up that things will be changing with my weekly newsletter. I’ve enjoyed putting together Thought Shrapnel during the last few years, but Issue #239, going out on 27th November 2016 will be the last in its current format.

Why? Well, I’ve currently got over 1,500 subscribers and have attracted sponsorship over the last 18 months, but list growth has plateaued and I’m itching to do something different. If you’re subscribed my newsletter, don’t worry, I’ll let you know what’s coming next. It might involve several ‘pop-up’ newsletters; I’m not quite sure yet.

Also, given how out-of-touch I’ve felt with such a large part of the world after the results of the EU referendum and US election, I may do something fairly dramatic with my use of social networking. I’m unlikely to quit anything completely, but I can envisage unfollowing everyone I currently follow on Twitter and starting again in that regard. We’ll see.

The great thing about disconnecting for a while — over and above spending more time with family and avoiding showing my grumpy side — is that it provides the time to reflect on my current ‘ways of being’ in digital spaces. I always contemplate not coming back at all after my time away but, when I do return, feel that I tend to use technology more intentionally.

Anyway, I’ll be around for the next couple of weeks. Let me know if you need anything before then!

Image by Rodion Kutsaev

#BelshawBlackOps16 Pt.1 has started!

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be away for the month of August, camping with my family around Europe. I’m back online in September.

That means no personal email, no social networking, no blogging, no weekly newsletter, and no podcasting.

Consultancy-wise, I’ve still got some capacity from September so I’ll occasionally be checking work email to interact with new and existing clients. I hope you have a great summer (northern hemisphere) / winter (southern hemisphere)!

Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com / doug@nullweareopen.coop

Image CC BY-NC-SA freeflo

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps16 Pt.1

Since 2010, I’ve taken a personal digital hiatus for a least one month each year. This involves abstaining from social networks, personal email, and blogging in an attempt to be more mindful about my existence in the world.

This is a quick note to say that I’ll be away for the entire month of August. I’ll be spending all (or nearly all) of it camping around Europe with my family. The plan is to spend lots of time with my wife and two children, slow down, read, play, and be a different kind of person than I am for the rest of the year.

I’ll take the second part of my digital hiatus in December, after experimenting with the August/December approach last year and it working well. Taking two months together is a little too much, I’ve found. A month in the summer (sunshine! family!) is great, and a month in the winter (Christmas! Seasonal Affective Disorder!) is regenerative.

On our camping trip I’ll be taking minimal tech, but I will be taking my iPad and smartphone, so I’ll still have access to my work emails. Get in touch if you want to discuss working with me in September and beyond! I’m spending the next couple of weeks finishing up existing work for clients, travelling to California for some work with the Corona-Norco schools district, and tying off other loose ends.

Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com


Image CC BY-NC-SA Tim Britton

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Its January 1st, 2016 which means I’m back from my December hiatus. As ever, it’s been refreshing to step out of the stream of social media for a month, to do more offline things, to be a different version of myself.

I’m going to take my time to come back online slowly. I’ve actually already started semi-secretly blogging again; I’ll send a newsletter out this Sunday; the Twitter app is back on my mobile devices. Things are getting back a version of normal.

A very Happy New Year to you and those that are important to you! My family and I are looking to a an exciting, healthy, and prosperous year. I hope that describes your outlook, too.

If you read this blog and we’ve never been in touch before, please do drop me a line. Just say hello! I’d love to hear from you.

Image CC BY-NC Shawn Harquall

#BelshawBlacksOps15 Pt.2 has begun. See you in 2016!

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be spending the month of December away from personal, published, digital output. This includes personal emails, my Thought Shrapnel weekly newsletter, the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast, blog posts, comments, and (even) the super-secret Slack channel I started this year with some pretty awesome people.

I’ll still be replying to work-related emails, so you can get me on my Dynamic Skillset address. If you’ve got my phone number (lucky you!) I’ll be replying to text messages, too. Other than that, I’ll be enjoying a different way of being that doesn’t involve a) thinking in 140 characters, b) expressing myself via animated gifs, and c) treating my brain as a way to connect together what other people are saying.

In terms of consultancy, I’ve got enough to keep me going for most of the first half of 2016, but do let me know if you’ve got projects you think I might be interested in around digital skills/literacies, badges, and/or educational technology!

Otherwise, see you on the other side. Have a great festive period and, for those of you in the northern hemisphere at least, keep warm!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Eric Leslie

INCOMING: #BelshawBlackOps15 (Part 2)

Every year, I spend a couple of months away from social media, personal email, and blogging. It’s an attempt to allow a different version of myself to take the limelight.

In past years, the months I’ve chosen to take off have been November and December. These months coincide with the nights drawing-in up here in Northumberland. In 2015, however, I’m experimenting with a small change; this year I chose August and December as my ‘months off’. While I’ve definitely found benefit in an single, uninterrupted eight-week stretch, my situation is slightly different this year.

In April, I left the Mozilla Foundation to set up Dynamic Skillset. While I was fortunate to have a lot of freedom over my working patterns at Mozilla, I’m now fully in control of my own schedule. It’s a wonderful feeling and one that I feel I’ve spent my career (so far) working towards.

The August experiment worked well. In fact, it was during August that, after consulting with family, friends, and a financial advisor, I decided to experiment with a four-day working week. It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions, but so far it’s been a revelation.

One day, I hope to be in a position to completely disconnect during my #BelshawBlackOps period. In financial terms, that would mean being able to support my family using the money I earn in just 10 months of the year. Things are going well, but that’s probably a while away yet  especially at four days a week!

As it is, during December I’ll still be available via my Dynamic Skillset and client email addresses. But I won’t be reading or replying to any personal email. Nor will I be writing anything for public consumption. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ll be off social networks.

From December 1st, for a month, I’ll be pausing my personal, published, digital output. This means no Thought Shrapnel weekly newsletter, no episodes of Today In Digital Education (TIDE), no posts or replies to comments here or on any other blog, and no replies to non-work emails.

Questions? Ponderings? You’ve still got a couple of weeks to put up with my digital detritus! Let me know your thoughts.

Image CC BY-NC Geraint Rowland

#BelshawBlackOps12 has started – see you in 2013!

I’m composing this sitting cross-legged with my back to the wall in a hotel room in Porto. There’s an occasional gentle breeze that drifts through the open window that slightly chills the back of my neck. I expected Portugal to be warmer for some reason.

The cacophony of seagulls behind outside fades into the background as the sound of church bells fills the air. An earlier glance out of the window showed people getting ready for the day. They take for granted the magnificent, tall buildings with tiled facades; it’s no wonder the centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m going to spend the entire month of December being a lot more analogue. I’m really looking forward to spending that time increasing my mindfulness. I’ll still be performing my normal work functions for Mozilla, but will tend towards paper to get things done. Meanwhile, I’ll not be using technology for personal communications.

This means:

  •  I’m not looking at or responding to personal emails
  •  I won’t be active on social networks like Twitter or Google+
  •  No new blog posts or weekly newsletters in December

I intend to spend time with my family and read books that have been recommended to me. This digital hiatus is something I’ve done for the past couple of years and would highly recommend to anyone. At a time when I’m feeling slightly weary and cynical about the world it’s a period of rejuvenation that allows me to start the New Year with a bang.

See you in 2013! 🙂

Image CC BY NASA Goddard Photo and Video

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps12

For the past couple of years I’ve undertaken Belshaw Black Ops. It’s the name Paul Lewis gave to my personal digital hiatus lasting for the month of December. I live in such a fast-paced online world for the other eleven months of the year that I need some time to take it all in!

You can read about what I got up to last year here.

This post is a heads-up to say that during December I won’t be:

I’d hoped not to be travelling either, but my job at the Mozilla Foundation evangelising Open Badges necessitates me going to a few places. Unless you’re also in those locations, the only way of getting hold of me is via my work email. Ask me for it ASAP if you need it!

Just to confirm that I’ll still be around on Twitter and Google+ for the next couple of weeks as well as blogging and writing my newsletter. But after then, leave me alone for a bit, OK?

I need to recharge. 🙂

Image CC BY-NC tantek

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