Be a human BEING rather than a human DOING: Making choices in Overchoice

I've been on “vacation” for the last four days but with a sick daughter, messy house, and a beebee gun to the back windowshield of my vehicle — I've been feeling more like a human “doing” than a human “being.”

I came across KWHobbes' great article about “Functioning in a state of overload.” He's a father of 7 so I feel that he can identify with my all too constant state of rush rush.

I believe a lot of teachers will identify with his thoughts:

“Safe to say I was overwhelmed and beginning to wonder if all the hype was worth the added stress. And, if I was having trouble,
can you image what other educators who weren’t using technology would feel like if this were thrust upon them, even a bit at a time. With the number different things that are coming at educators from all sides, an overload of information is not what they need. So how does one manage in this time of information overload and do more than just skimming and scanning or drown in the tsanumi?”

He goes on to give tips about how he handles it all and I think they are good tips. Here are a few brief thoughts, because I've got a lot of cleaning (still) to do today:

1) Sometimes you've got to let the rough end drag
A favorite saying of my late grandmother. Perfection is an illusion. It is enough to be joining in the conversation. And remember that ALL OF US, especially me feel “out of it.”

2) Change your corner of the world
Change what you can and start at home. Yesterday, my daughter and I had a great photography lesson together as we learned about how to take photographs. You can see what our last photo to the left. We had a great time!

3) Practice intentional R&D

I have a whole chapter about this in my new book — I keep a list of things I want to try out and when I can sneak in a little time here and there, I don't mindlessly surf — I intentionally spend time on my own research and development in ways that fit into the big picture of my life at the moment. R&D is literally a list in my planner!

4) Participate but selectively congregate
It is easy to feel like that you'll “miss something” when twitter is abuzz and things are hopping in the edublogosphere. Guess what? Things are always hopping in those places.

You've got a life to live. When I'm on trips, I often “congregate” — heading off to the latest ustream or online free event, but otherwise, I am very selective. Wow2 and EdTechConnect with Discovery Educators make my top list. (I'm on tomorrow night at 7pm EST — enroll ahead of time for this free seminar.)

5) Automate
Automate as much as you can to facilitate your sharing.

RSS magic – For me, I use feedburner to put my delicious links into my RSS feed. Then, I use twitterfeed to take my feedburner feed automatically and post it to my twitter status. Then, I use the twitter app in facebook to automatically take my twitter status and change it to be my facebook status. (Note that I set my twitterfeed to only update once an hour at most, you don't want to inundate your twitter.)

Calendar Magic – I know everyone loves Google Calendar, but my life is on Airset — this tool is embedded into so many things I do, from updating my public calendar on the left hand side of my blog, to reminding guests when they are coming on wow2, to setting up appointments, I love airset.

Cellphone Magic Airset texts reminders of my calendar for the next day, reminds me of appointments, texts my husband and kids to remind them of their appointments, and I also use to text me the weather for the day (and sports scores that are final for my favorite team, the Georgia Tech yellow Jackets — not much to follow lately, but I like to know anyway.)

I also set up my gmail account to forward e-mail from my husband to my cell phone via text message. (Follow the instructions from your carrier or use something like MyCell.)

Additionally, I use callwave for my cell phone voice mail now, if I miss a call, callwave records the message and forwards it to my e-mail with a pretty good transcription and a copy of the message that I may listen to from my computer. I just use that for everything and am about to set my home phone to no answer transfer to my cell phone — I need ONE place to check everything — gmail is it — even my voice mail.

E-mail Magic – All of your e-mail accounts can be set to go into one gmail account under your account settings. (It checks pop and imap e-mail.) I set all of it to go there.

If you have gmail, all I can say is filter, filter, filter. I have several important folders set up — one is 2READ — I filter all of my newsletters, etc. to go directly to that folder and skip my main inbox. Mark things as spam and filter them. If you don't want them, just tell gmail to delete it automatically by pressing the little down arrow on the right hand side and select filter messages like this. I still get 100 messages a day — but that is down from the 2000 or so that I was getting since I went to gmail. It has the best spam filter and although I miss outlook a little, I have got to have the spam filter!

Use folders – I use the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity method by David Allen and have folders marked @ACTION and @WAITING to file my e-mails that I need to act on or am waiting for others — I still have to go through and review, but it is important to be able to get that inbox down to zero.

6) It is ok to be a being and not always be doing!

The hardest thing for me to remember is that I am not validated by my list. Relaxing and remembering that I have a family to love on that won't be here forever is very important.

I'd love to know your tips for being more efficient. Please, share!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Faces of Web 2.0 ★ 21st Century Teachers February 19, 2008 - 11:10 pm

Vicki, thanks so much for sharing so many nifty time-saving and efficiency tips for handling a digital life. I was wondering just how you got your delicious feeds posted, and I had already “copied” your “just blogged” twitterfeed routine just by looking closely at your tweets a month or so ago.

Even for those of us that are not yet power blogger, presenters, podcasters, teachers, etc., we still should try to develop best practices from the start while we are small, so that we CAN grow and manage things without a digital meltdown.

Thanks again,

Karyn Romeis February 20, 2008 - 9:05 am

I posted about a related matter a little while ago. Check out my How DOES she do it?

BTW – I’m curious to know whether the culprit with the BB gun “fessed up” of his own volition or had to be confronted. Don’t you find that you stand just a little taller when your kids come clean to you before you’ve even discovered the results of a misdemeanor – I know I do.

Stephanie Mocilan February 20, 2008 - 6:06 pm

Mrs. Davis,

I thank you for the inspiration of your Blog. I am currently an Illinois State University student studying to be a biology teacher 6-12 grade. I am taking a class called Issues in Secondary Education which is “technology enriched.” We are learning the value of blogs in the area of education. I have been feeling very overwhelmed at all the technology that is available, not to mention fitting it into life. I really appreciated your suggestion of keeping a list of things for research and development as opposed to mindlessly surfing the Internet. It is helpful and comforting the way you suggest sneaking a little time in here and there. Too often I get caught up in all that has to be done and don’t get anything done. Your suggestions like being selective, automating, and having one place to check everything have been invaluable. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

Stephanie Mocilan

Amy Strecker February 20, 2008 - 2:28 pm

Great tips! Thanks!

Something that’s basic, but helpful for me, is to time myself when on certain sites. For example, every morning while I’m checking email for the first time, etc I give myself 10 minutes on facebook to send messages and check in on what’s going on there. Then I don’t let myself go back to that space unless I get a specific, personal message through the service later in the day.

As someone who works from home, it’s easy to be distracted by the “bright & shiny” things available online, so I have to set up a structure for myself of how to use my online time each day.

Kelly Christopherson February 21, 2008 - 6:35 am

Vicki, love your list! There will be a few things I will be doing, especially with my gmail. I sure wish Airset had a word processor and spreadsheet. I sure like their setup but would like an “all-in-one” like zoho has! I’ll be using your delicious feed idea – will cut down on things for me.
I also have my “action list” of items that I sneak in when I have time. With this week off, I thought I’d have a for more minutes to do this – NOT! Thanks Vicki – sorry you couldn’t be there on WoW but I’m sure we’ll eventually cross paths! Take care. Oh, love the photo – am jealous as it is pretty cold up here!

Vicki A. Davis February 22, 2008 - 1:16 am

@faces – We should learn from one another. RSS means that it is so much simpler to be a lot of places. People often ask “how I do it” — the answer is that I don’t. It is important to use the intelligence and automation of the tools that are available to us!

@karyn – Yes, he did “come clean” although any mishap w/ a weapon — bee bee gun or no is considered a major offense in our house. You never aim anything — balloon, rubber band, anything unless you know where it is going to go!

@amy – YES! Timing myself is really a very important thing to do — that is great as a teacher, because I can tuck in a few moments here and there just before bells ring, etc. Keeping focus online is something we must all learn!

@stephanie — Your comment shows all of the elements of a GREAT comment. Your thoughtful, meaningful insight shows is wonderful. ARe you blogging yet, Stephanie — you should.

@kelly – I use google docs for many things and zoho is pretty good — Airset has recently added a lot of things… wiki, etc. I have a feeling word processing is in the works. They’ve just done a great job with the calendar piece.

Stephanie Mocilan February 27, 2008 - 5:01 am

Mrs. Davis,

Thank you for you complement in regard to my comment. I have been blogging, but am pretty new to it. I mentioned that I am at ISU, but I didn’t mention before that I am not the traditional student. I am coming back to school after feeling led to be a teacher. I am currently a leader in an organization called Young Life. ( Basically it is a Christian organization that reaches out to “unchurched” high school kids. We meet them “where they are” in life. It is kind of a mentoring program and kind of an outreach. All that to say this, I became a member of myspace late last year. I communicate with some of my high school friends there and I post blogs there in hopes of reaching people who need to hear the same messages that God is teaching me. Mostly, it is just about everyday things or revelations I have had. So basically everything I have done is personal and unstructured. I am looking forward to utilizing this tool in a professional way. I’m off to finish reading your blog about Ten habits of bloggers that win. Thanks again for your blogs and encouragement.

Stephanie Mocilan

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere