I was born in the second to last week of 1980 which, by some people’s reckoning either makes me one of the youngest in Gen X or possibly the world’s oldest Millennial.
What I’m trying to say is that being on the cusp of two generations means that you’re stuck between mindsets when it comes to technologies. One perfect example of this is the way that I plan my weeks. What I would like do do is plan everything digitally, what I actually take is a hybrid approach. I use a combination of Google Calendar, Trello, and other digital tools But also… this:
Above is the second version of my weekly planner. I’ve used an iteration of this every week for the past few years. When I’m feeling particularly under pressure, I use a daily planner (below) which is now my third version. The fonts don’t match between the two. I don’t care. Perfect is the enemy of done.
They should be pretty self-explanatory, and you’re welcome to use them, but they’re pretty much focused on my specific needs. I encourage you to make your own, as sometimes having a piece of paper on your desk in front of you adds to a sense of urgency and motivation to get stuff done.
I don’t know why I don’t just book time off every half-term. Unlike the summer holidays, where the kids get into a rhythm of entertaining themselves, as a parent you always feel ‘on-call’ when they have just one week off school.
Thankfully, my wife was around, but I felt like my work was an inconvenience to family life this week. And, after all, why do we work? Part of it is to have the money to spend time with your family doing fun things. I don’t feel like I enjoyed the fruits of my labour this week.
There were good reasons why I didn’t book holidays this week, though. One of them was because it was Product Management Planning Week at Moodle. These have been a bit sporadic since their inception just after I joined the organisation at the start of last year. So it was good that I got to spend some time, albeit virtually, with fellow Product Managers.
Back on the home fromt, my wife’s sister and family were up last weekend. They’re so much more chilled-out than our family, which tends to schedule all the things and treat everything as a competition. Sometimes you need a welcome encouragement just to relax.
Other than that, it’s been good to see support come in via Open Collective for We Are Open community projects like Badge Wiki. We’re planning to launch a forum soon for the discussion of badges, among other things. This will go under the umbrella of our ‘Learning Fractal’ sub-brand, which we’re currently using only for our newsletter.
Finally, I took the opportunity of some spare hours on Friday while my son was at trials for the Newcastle Eagles academy to go to the Laing Art Gallery. I’ve been trying to carve out time to see Chris Killip‘s photos of the decline of shipbuilding on the Tyne since reading about the exhibition in The Guardian earlier this year. The photos are amazing and the story is a sad but evocative one.
Next week, I’m getting back into the regime of taking Fridays as my non-Moodle day. I’ll miss having my week split in two, but on the other hand it should give me more scope to get up some mountains and get 20 Quality Mountain Days under my belt!
We’d come up with lots of questions in our pre-planning meeting, as well as some aims for things we’d like to get out of the day. You can see our planning Hackpad here.
Once we’d all arrived and we’d figured out the tech to allow Laura to participate fully (which involved my ever-handy Sony XRS-11 bluetooth speaker) we dived straight into the principles by which we want to work. John, Bryan and I worked on a nearby whiteboard, while Laura took a photo of the piece of paper she worked on:
Riffing off Laura’s three-part structure, we formulated three questions to answer:
What do you do?
How are you different?
What do you create?
The answers to these are on the hackpad, but I’ll share where we ended up after much discussion around the second point:
Nimble / Limber / Acrobatic
Share all the things
Surplus, not profit
Old/new ways of doing stuff
We particularly liked the notion of being ‘acrobatic’ (although without using the metaphor of a circus). There’s something about it that suggests discipline with flexibility.
We spent some time both ‘silent hackpadding’ and discussing the questions we’d come into the day focused on, but this led quickly to considerations around tools. From that we found that a really nice metaphor emerged around tools in a workshop.
We used the improv approach of ‘Yes, and…’ to build out the metaphor. For example, tools both old and new sit alongside one another in a workshop; there’s times when you need to ‘sharpen your saw’; and there’s times when you know you haven’t got the right tool for the job, so you have to borrow one from a neighbour.
Thinking of our own tools, we had a back-and-forth about what we should use to collaborate. The tension was between wanting to use Open Source technologies wherever possible, and recognising that clients will not always have the skills or motivation to sign up to a new platform. In the end, we decided to abstract away from specific tools to think about the type of technologies we need:
Those with an asterisk* come with a one-click install process via Sandstorm.io.
Telling the story
Bryan had to head out at lunchtime, so Laura, John, and I dug into setting up Loomio and helping tell our story through a basic pitch deck. We used The Writer’s Journey, which is a modified version of The Hero’s Journey:
After about 45 minutes of hacking and a spectacular brain dump from Laura, we ended up with this. We need to get really clear on our single product for new clients: the Thinkathon. This is a one-day facilitated thinking session that helps clients untangle problems, provides them with a ‘shopping list’, provides clear next steps.
A combination of factors meant that we ended up about 4½ hours of time together today. Still, that was enough to get a significant amount of work done towards building weareopen.coop. Things we need to do next include:
Updating the website
Creating a compelling description of the Thinkathon
Setting up the tools we’ll use amongst ourselves and with clients
We’re open for business right now. Part of any new venture involves building the plane while you fly it; the difference is that we’re sharing that building openly. Get in touch if you think we can help you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Update: I created selfie videos to document each day as I went along. I then used a Sony app to create short highlight videos. You can view them here: Day 1 (Friday) / Day 2 (Saturday)
This evening I’ve spent some time planning my first two ‘Quality Mountain Days’. As I explained in The psychology of going up a mountain, walking on Friday and Saturday in the Lake District will count as 10% of the days I need to have under my belt before starting my Mountain Leader award.
I’m aiming to fulfil all of the Quality Mountain Day criteria:
the individual takes part in the planning and leadership
navigation skills are required away from marked paths
experience must be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in UK and Irish hills
knowledge is increased and skills practised
attention is paid to safety
five hours or more journey time
adverse conditions may be encountered
This post is to document my planning. I’ll update afterwards with photos I take and any notes/voice recordings I make!
How wet? Risk snow & hail showers later. Substantially or completely dry, but later afternoon and evening, risk showers, of soft hail, or above 600m snow.
Cloud? Very little
Sunshine and Air Clarity? Bursts of bright sunshine, mainly morning. The air very clear.
How cold? (at 750m): 1 to 3C, highest west Lakes in afternoon.
I get back home to where I live in Morpeth, Northumberland late on Thursday night, so I’ll be up early Friday morning to pack and then drive the 2.5 hours to the Lake District. I’m going to give the above route plan (created using a photo of an OS map and Skitch) to the YHA Borrowdale staff with the time I left and the time I expect to be back.
While I’ve walked up to Dale Head before (last year when I did the Mountain Skills course) this will be the first time I’ve been up there by myself. In fact it’s the first time I’ll have been up any mountain alone. I’m planning to push on, past Yewcrag Quarries and over onto Fleetwith Pike. It may be quite exposed and windy over there, so my backup plan is to abort that small circle part of the route and head down the dismantled tramway.
Either way, returning via Honister House should be pretty straightforward and the route should be reasonably flat once I’ve got down to Lowbank Crags. If I’ve worked this out correctly it should be about 14km. That should be quite enough to keep me going for the five hours I need to be out and about for it to count as a ‘Quality Mountain Day’!
Effect of wind on you? May impede walking some higher areas. Notable wind chill for late April.
How wet? Snow and hail showers. Light showers or flurries developing, snow or soft hail to low levels, spreading increasingly from north by afternoon.
Cloud? Mostly very little
Sunshine and Air Clarity? Occasional bright sunshine. Visibility superb, but much reduced during showers and where also in cloud.
How cold? (at 750m): 0 or -1C
I want to get out, get up, and get home as soon as possible on Saturday — especially given the snow flurries forecast for the afternoon. I’m planning to park in Millbeck, then walk through Lyzzick Wood and up Dodd. This should give me some indication as to whether it’s safe to head up towards Skiddaw via Carl Side.
If it is, I’ll go that way, stopping off to test my micro-navigational skills by finding the cairn indicated on the map. Instead of taking the main path to the top of Skiddaw, I’m going to take the smaller track and see if I can keep on it. I’m hoping that visibility will be good enough to take some decent photos from Skiddaw Man.
After something to eat, if I can see the weather coming in, I may retrace myself and come down the track that follows Slades Beck. However, the plan is to keep going and make my way to Little Man, finding the two cairns shown on the map. From there I’ll follow the path down and round to Applethwaite, then back to the car. All told, that’s around 11km, but will be more challenging than Friday due to the weather.
Note: many thanks to Craig Taylor for responding so quickly and comprehensively to my Twitter DMs. I wanted to check that these routes seemed reasonable and he gave me some ‘old-timers’ advice that should ensure I have a safe and successful trip. Having done the Mountain Leader qualification himself (and been in the army) he’s been a great source of encouragement and support, loaning me some books last year to help with my understanding of what’s required!
This is an ‘iterative’ e-book because people have been able to buy into it ever since v0.1. You can find more about this ‘OpenBeta’ model here. Fundamental to the process is getting feedback from readers. I’m glad to say that you haven’t let me down, and the book is better as a result. Thank you for that.
The aim is for the e-book to be practically useful while not being shy about theory. People have said that it’s proving useful for use with trainee teachers and other undergraduates, so I’m glad it’s already having the desired effect!
Release v0.99 of the e-book. This will be textually complete and form the basis of a crowdsourced copyediting process that will take a few weeks.
Release v1.0 of the e-book. This will have benefitted from more eyes than just mine in terms of coherence and copyediting. Should they agree, these people will be given special thanks in the foreword. It will definitely be available in PDF, and I’ll work with people to get it available in ePub and Kindle formats.
I’m not the only conduit for ideas in this space, so I’m planning to follow the lead of people like Yochai Benkler and create a wiki to accompany the book. This will be structured in a similar way to the wiki that is a companion to Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks.
A few points to finish off.
Now is be a great time to buy into the book. It’ll save you a couple of pounds compared to the price of v0.99 or v1.0 (you get the updates for free).
This was never about the money. Yes, I’ve been able to pay recurring digital subscriptions from my Paypal balance instead of my credit card, but that wasn’t the aim. The financial element here was to get people to buy into the process early. Once this happened, I could ask for feedback – which I’m delighted to have received on a fairly regular basis.
If you’d like to get involved with the launch, please do get in touch! Examples: the visual design of v1.0, translating the book into another language, or making Bitcoin payments a reality. I’m @dajbelshaw or you can email me at email@example.com.
A special thanks once again to those who have encouraged me and provided feedback over the last couple of years. You’re all very kind. We’re nearly there – just this last hurdle to clear!
More on this next week with the release of v0.99. 🙂
Last May when I was just about to start working at Mozilla, Nick Dennis gave me some great advice. He said that I should thrash out with my line manager what I should focus on during my first 100 days, defining what ‘success’ looked like at the end of that period.
For whatever reason, I didn’t take Nick’s advice and, indeed, felt a bit lost at sea by Christmas. That’s not anyone’s fault, particularly, it’s just that I was used to working in an institutional environment (schools/universities) and Mozilla’s, well… different.
So I thought I’d take the opportunity when changing teams within Mozilla to belatedly take Nick’s advice and discuss with my new line manager Chris Lawrence what I should be doing from now until Christmas. Admittedly, that’s a little over 100 days, but it’s close enough. Here’s what we came up with – and what that includes, in no particular order:
1. Release the Web Literacy Standard v1.0 at MozFest
Work with Michelle Thorne to encourage session leaders to tag their sessions with skills and competencies from the Standard.
Work with Laura Hilliger on relevant session proposals relating to the Standard
Propose a facilitated version of the community work from calls.
2. Transfer the Web Literacy Standard to webmaker.org
Work with the Webmaker team to integrate the Standard across webmaker.org.
Obviously, there’s other things that are assumed (like building up a collection of animated GIFs and deploying them appropriately) and other things that will emerge but, for now, I think that’s a great starting point!
As any who knows me well will testify, I like structure. That’s partly because, as Cory Doctorow put it in his recent Lifehacker interview “habits are things you get for free”. I plan each day using my daily planner – something that I know other people have also found value in using. 🙂
So when I came across a reference to structured procrastination today I was intrigued. Was this a a joke or a real thing? I did some digging. As it turns out, it’s the latter. The ‘method’ (more of an ‘anti-method’) can be summarised easily:
Don’t keep a schedule
Work on whatever you find most important/interesting
I find it fascinating that people can use such a method successfully.
Having those two things as principles is all very well and good, but does it work? Well apparently it’s been fundamental to the success of none other than bodybuilder/actor/politician Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Want to meet with Arnold? Sure, drop on by. He’ll see you if he can. But you might want to call first. Sorry, he doesn’t schedule appointments in advance.
As a result, for 20 years he has been free to work on whatever is most important in his life at any time.
Those of you in California may recall how, once Arnold decided to run for Governor, he went into a blaze of action and activity that resulted in a landslide victory. The book attributes this in part to the fact that his schedule was completely clear and he could spend all day, every day on his new political career, without having to worry about distractions or commitments.
It’s now got me thinking about lots of things. Whether such a approach would even be desirable. It’s got me thinking about the things that have to be in place before such an approach could work. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve been considering the extent to which an individual’s ‘barriers’ to actually doing this are real or merely perceived.
I’d love to learn more about how you organise yourself. What works best for YOU?
The great thing about working for an organization where you’re expected to be pretty self-directed is that you can organize your time pretty much however you want. The flip side of this, of course, is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of just doing whatever you feel like doing (rather than what’s important).
I iterated the daily planner below whilst I was still working for Jisc infoNet. I find it such an incredibly useful tool that I’ve continued to use it now that I work at Mozilla. You can print it out and/or download the PDF below:
The planning sheet was inspired by lots of different places I read productivity stuff, so if some of it looks familiar, that’s why. It’s fairly self-evident, but basically you:
Circle the appropriate day, date and month. You can find this to the top-right of the planner.
Add time-specific stuff to the ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Evening’ boxes. If you need to be somewhere or doing something at a particular time, add this before going any further.
Think through the things you need to do today. Some of these may be things you didn’t get done yesterday or have written on a weekly ‘scratch pad’.
Organise the things you need to do into groups. For example, most days I’ve got ‘writing’ and ‘reading’ as headings.
Write down the tasks you need to do under the group headings. These will then have a number and a letter next to them – e.g. ‘1a’ or ‘3c’
Add any other tasks to the ‘Emergent & other tasks’ box. These may be personal reminders or just less important stuff that needs doing sometime.
Start adding tasks to your ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Evening’ boxes. I also schedule lunch and exercise. You can just write the appropriate number and letter to save space – e.g. ‘2a’ or ‘3b’.
You can experiment. You can change it. You can do what you like with it. Yesterday, for example, I drew different numbers of circles around tasks to represent time in a quasi-Pomodoro Technique style. Do what you like. Hack it.
Watched more films in one month than I did in the preceding eleven
Re-assessed my direction in life
Started using a SAD light (early birthday present)
Chilled out a whole lot more than I usually do (Migraine count: 1)
What I really missed social network-wise wasn’t the constant stream of news but the positive reinforcement and support I get. This was shown by the number of messages of congraultations I received both in the comments of my last blog post and on Twitter.
Of course, the question I now get asked is: Now you’ve finished your doctorate, what’s next?
Well, I answer, I’ve got some exciting stuff coming up – I’m running a workshop with Prof. Keri Facer at Learning Without Frontiers at the end of January, and then March is a busy month, with me heading to San Francisco for the DML Conference, speaking at TEDx Warwick, and keynoting a conference for the first time (see my Lanyrd profile for details).
Other than that and a couple of other bits and pieces, I’m open to offers. I’ve been asked to submit a book proposal and things are ticking along nicely with Synechism Ltd. (on a part-time basis). Whilst I’m very much enjoying things at the moment, my focus is on doing interesting stuff that aligns with my values (openness, freedom, authenticity) and that allows me to spend as much time as I can with my family.
I’m pleased to announce that I successfully defended my doctoral thesis at my viva voce on 12th December 2011. As expected, the examiners gave me minor rewrites but I managed to submit these to my supervisor before Christmas.
Whilst I can’t officially call myself ‘Doctor Belshaw’ until I’m on Durham University’s pass list (and even then I’m probably not your go-to person for emergency tracheotomies) I’m delighted with the culmination of six years’ work into digital and new literacies.
It’s great to be back on social networks such as Twitter and Google+ and press ‘delete’ on hundreds of emails (well, I did warn people…)