Welcome to 2022! I know many of you have been looking forward to turning the page on 2021 and hoping that 2022 will provide more stability, less chaos, and more productivity. And I hope the same for myself as well. That is why I am starting off the new work year with a blog post focused on how I hope to tackle productivity in the new year. After all, this will be a big year for my role as Florida Consortium Executive Director and as a higher education professional. We have some great projects underway focused on Transfer Success and Career Success and we are slowing on-boarding work in student accessibility, higher education grad student engagement, and workforce development. We have a full staff here in the office and lots of engaged partners all over the state. So, there is a lot to do.
And I have to be honest, I am not a very good multitasker. Like many of you, I can easily be distracted and have a hard time prioritizing my work and work time to benefit our projects the most. There is an old football saying – if you have three QBs you don’t have one – meaning, if you are torn between three starting Quarterbacks then you really don’t have a starter. Well, the same holds true for our work as well. If you don’t know your priorities then you don’t have any. Time to end that.
What really got me rolling down this “new year, organized me” hill was an op-ed/interview piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that appeared on December 20th, 2021. Lindsay Ellis was interviewing Cal Newport, a faculty member at Georgetown and author of three books on productivity including his most famous book; Deep Work. I gotta admit, I had all but forgotten I read Deep Work some time ago when my friend and colleague, Dr. Adam Peck at Illinois State introduced it to me years ago but here I was, on my break, going into a deep dive of Dr. Newport’s work. And it really revealed to me a number of blunders and fixes I can deploy in my effort to reorganize and reprioritize.
A Guiding Philosophy
Newport consistently points to what he calls in his book Digital Minimalism; “A Guiding Philosophy” when it comes to technology and social media. Well, guess what, I had none. I had never even thought about what I valued in Social Media and digital technology and this was not healthy. Here are some of the bad habits I had formed over the years:
- Thinking a lack of emails is evidence I am not valued or important to our projects or work was not being done.
- Using Social Media as a way of verifying my importance in the life of others.
- Valuing likes and clicks over other forms of engagement.
- Engaging in useless banter over politics and other topics with people I did not even know.
- Looking at Social Media or Email while I was engaged with real live people at the same time (like my family and friends or in a meeting).
I will be honest. I like social media and I don’t have any intention to delete it. I also need email to work but what I can do is measure it via geography and duration. Here is what I mean.
First, Geography. Where we engage can be just as important as how long we engage. Social media allows us to be linked into the “metaverse” be it in the boardroom or the little boys’ room. With access to our hand computers, we are never more than a click away from our social media. However, I am trying to limit that by logging off of these sites on my phone and personal or work computers and limiting access to my iPad at my residence. I think that will make a difference. While my iPad is portable and I do carry it with me when I travel it is usually not too near me. This will limit access to one device and that can make a big difference. I will keep Instagram and Twitter on my phone but keep logged into my professional Twitter account to limit issues there and I rarely scroll Instagram.
The second is duration. While limiting geography is nice, I also need to limit the time spent. On my lap on the couch, I can log some hours with the iPad. So not much is gained if I limit geography and not limit time. So I have configured my iPad with screentime and app time governors found in the settings part of the iPad. As of this writing, I have limited my screen time to 90 minutes for social media apps and 180 minutes for all iPad shenanigans. I hope to never hit those limits but we will see!
With that in mind, here is my guiding digital philosophy:
With respect to the utility of digital technology in my life I find it is best to limit my geography and duration of my access to enable a deeper and more focused life dedicated to the projects and activities which enhance my life, my relationships, my career, and my mental health.
I will keep you all updated on how it goes. In the meantime, I am reading through all of Cal Newport’s books and adding to this discussion in future blog posts. My next post will be focused on email and my workspace and how to make it more efficient for more focused work. Until next time, geography and duration.