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How I make time for social, networked learning

February 4, 2012

Stressed out? Overloaded with information?  Never enough time in the day?  I am proud to say that’s not me and here’s why:

I choose to spend a fair chunk of my day wandering like a knowmad through the events and artifacts of #change11, #ds106 and #cck12.  I have no worries about juggling three massive open online courses at once.  I know that whatever I get out of each of them is exactly proportional to whatever I put into them.  A little taste here, more in-depth looks there, no problem.

Creativity through connectivity

Although I am a learning ‘designer’ in the public sector, I don’t think of myself as overly creative or artistic.  I tend to be more detail-oriented, linear and logical so reviewing The Daily Create assignments in ds106 is one way that I have purposefully immersed myself in the company of new people and new ideas, especially ones that seem like wild tangents from my own.  I am able to connect the dots in many new combinations now and that sounds pretty creative to me.

I find that connective learning repeatedly triggers serendipity that draws me back day after day: that delightful unearthing of little gems of insight that I likely wouldn’t have been exposed to by other means.  It’s the payoff for being open to learning and working as if I am sampling from a huge buffet prepared by dozens of chefs, not eating from a fixed menu.

Now that I’ve chosen to experiment with HootSuite and Diigo and live Twitter events such as #lrnchat, I find it hard to remember a time without these tools.  I feel nauseous at the idea of being restricted to email overload and cluttered shared drives as my only sources of knowledge.  How do people actually get anything done that way?  For me, a personal learning network that is driven by collaborative, customizable technology has huge Twimpacts on my week.  It’s like having a set of living encyclopedias at my desk that are always opened to a helpful page.

Being a fairly organized person, I started putting up sandbanks against the information flood long before I’d ever heard about social media.  Thankfully, those habits seem to have paid off more recently as an active mooc participant.  My daily code of conduct looks like this:

Taming the email beast

I send and receive about 50 emails a day but I keep my inbox and sent folder to a dozen items or less.  Anymore would feel like I was drowning.  Linking to information housed elsewhere saves me from sending or keeping email attachments.  I rely on aggregate newsletters from my moocs, I visit sites directly when I wish to and I don’t subscribe to email notifications from any social media platforms.  In other words, I intentionally keep my email traffic to a minimum.

Update September 2012: tools for taming the email beast!

Don’t worry, it will find me somehow

Letting go of the idea that I can read it all is particularly important for me on high-volume platforms like Twitter and HootSuite.  If something is really important, the contacts in my personal learning network will retweet it or the item will pop up again somewhere else.  This is tough for a Crayon control freak like me but I’m getting better!


I firmly believe that multitasking is a myth so I don’t even pretend to do it.  I turned off instant messaging and pop-up email alerts long ago because they disrupt my attention and annoy the hell out of me.  I don’t jump when someone snaps their fingers at me in person so I’m sure not going to do it every few seconds electronically, either.

I have made it very clear to my superiors and my colleagues that I am not available to work overtime.  Sounds like a career limiting move?  Not at all.  I am very mindful of how much I can accomplish in a single work day, which means that I deliver my results on time, if not earlier.  This gives me the credibility I need when agreeing or declining to take on something new.

Learning = working = learning

Thanks to the insights of the mooc godfathers (Stephen, George, Dave) and the Internet Time Alliance, I have realized that social, networked learning is not just a daily vitamin of professional development; it’s the whole meal.  Quite frankly, I have grown impatient with fellow learning professionals who claim this stuff as something they don’t have time for but wish they did.  I’m pretty sure that no one will come along and give me less work to do so I make networked learning part of my daily work flow.  It’s a natural fit and it makes my work easier to be in the virtual company of so many experts.

Making time for silence

I’m completely comfortable with not being ‘on’ all the time.  In fact, I quite often need to be off so that I can deal with what’s already in front of me.  To help others with this, I often book meetings at :15 instead of :00 and :30.

A quick glance at others’ calendars helps me avoid scheduling meetings back to back.  My last day before vacation and my first day back are also booked as ‘busy’ so that others don’t bother sending me invitations for those times.

Shocking as it may sound, I refuse to monitor email or voicemail when I am away from my desk because I’m obviously busy doing something else.  My Out of Office notification states this and it’s neat to see how many of my colleagues have borrowed my wording for their own practice.

These simple techniques for “creating some silence” help me to digest my information flow and give me breathing room to form connections between thoughts.

Changing my vocabulary

Here’s another tip for people who feel like time victims:  try swapping out “I don’t have time” for “I’m not going to make time”.  This is how I continue to stay mindful that I’m the only person responsible for how my time is managed.

We can also stop apologizing for our time choices by adopting the “no sorries in #ds106” mindset.  Each of us is doing the best we can, right?  I live happily with that.

My daily learning and working revolves around setting my default to ‘share’ and sustaining my personal learning network through reciprocity.  I make lots of time for social learning and I am grateful for everyone in my network who makes time for me in return.

I’m brainysmurf and this is how I do social, networked learning.  What helps or impedes your ability to make time for learning and working in a networked way?


From → Smarter worker

  1. Joanne permalink

    Brainy Smurf – these are such helpful ideas. Actually, more than helpful, they are profound in fact. I’m new to networked learning – CCK12 is my first course about this topic – so these are practical steps I can take. Thank you. You are indeed a Brainy Smurf!

    I only have one tip to add: I strictly limit the people and organizations that I follow on Twitter (I’m talking about my main account here, not the one I set up for this course) to those that I’m truly interested in and I don’t let myself be pressured into following anyone “just because” I know them or they are important or everyone else follows them. That way, I can focus on people and causes I’m really interested in.

    Also, I don’t post on Twitter a lot, and when I do I post as though I have no followers and just post what I think is interesting, not what I think will gain me followers (or prevent me from losing followers). This saves me time and lessens any pressure. And keeps it fun and interesting for me.

    “Love like you’ve never been unfriended and Tweet like no one is following” is a good motto.

    • Thanks, Joanne, that’s great advice about Twitter. Much like FB, one has to stay mindful of volume and filtering…fewer contacts of better quality seems to trump quantity most of the time. I’m still adjusting my Twitter volume on a regular basis and adding/deleting followers as it makes sense. Enjoy CCK12, it is likely to change you forever in many wonderful ways! 🙂

      • Kaine permalink

        I too thank you for your logical and profound hints on surviving in this vast array of information soup. I feel like I am drowning sometimes. CCK12 is very new and overwhelming at times but at the same point intrigueing and transformational in my static views on formal education.

        Great thoughts.


        • Thanks, Kaine, I’m glad this post resonates with you. The drowning feelings are quite normal in a mooc (well, in the world of info overload in general, really). I’m confident you’ll find what works best for you. Cheers!

  2. Gracias por compartir. A mí también me ha dado buenos resultados esto de estructurar las entradas y salidas. Sé que no todos aprendemos de la misma forma, porque somos fisiológicamente diferentes. Además las prácticas que hemos desarrollado y en las que tenemos más o menos habilidades van a hacer distinciones.
    Es primera vez que me inscribo en un MOOC; y claro, al principio me abrumé un poco; pero después me di cuenta que no iba a poder leer todo y ya he desarrollado una estrategia para leer lo más posible. Al principio no comentaba mucho. Ahora estoy dejando mis notas y mis twitts. Sé que no todos los que quiero las leerán. Pero al que le toca lo hará.

    • Gracias por hacer que el tiempo de comentar, Carmen. Estoy usando Google Translate para esto ya que mi español no es tan grande. Mantenga bien y disfrutar del viaje de aprendizaje que moocs siempre! 🙂

      • Volví a pasar por aquí después de leer “yo elijo la poda sobre ahogamiento”. Yo no he hecho podas; pero como soy estructurada, me doy el tiempo para lo que quiero y soy capaz de desconectarme sin culpas.

        • Gracias por la visita, Carmen. Ser capaz de desconectar sin sentimiento de culpa es muy poderosa. Espera a que el enfoque! 🙂

  3. It’s a pleasure, thanks for this opportunity! 🙂

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How I make time for social, networked learning « Connecting the dots | Connectivism and Networked Learning |
  2. Getting to Know You: How I make time for social, networked learning | One Change a Day
  3. Week 22: Pierre Levy, The IEML Philosophy | The Georgia Tech MOOC

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