Take control and find out where all your time goes.

Take control and find out where all your time goes.

Where does all your time go? What has the greatest impact on your daily energy and is it the right use of your time? I have long pursued living a deliberate life. A life where my energy is used in the right places. Where conscious decisions lead to a better home and work life. We are all driven and ambitious. Wanting to live a life that is rich and fulfilling. The challenge is often time. While it is often a legitimate hurdle, sometimes it can be a ‘get out of jail free’ card. There are so many things we could do with our lives if we just had more time. Oh, the skills we could master, the projects we could complete.

So where does all your time go?

I have spent the past two weeks figuring this out. On episode 7 of Design and Play, my co-host Dean Pearman put me on to an app called Toggl. Toggl is a time tracking application that allows you to capture where you spend your energy and time. It is available via a browser, desktop (Mac & PC) download or as a mobile application. It is free but you can upgrade via subscription for some more features. The free version is more than enough.

Toggl’s default screen

To start, you create projects. These are broad categories like Meetings, Ordering, Email, etc…. You then specify the details of the category. For example, if your broad category is Meetings, then your subcategory would be what that meeting is about. When that meeting starts, you press the green play button and a timer starts for that meeting. When the meeting finishes, you press the stop button. It’s that simple. Consciously recording your time for your tasks during the day really changes how you view your time allocation. There are so many times when I reach for my phone while waiting for something. It’s just habit. I recorded all of that time. It was really interesting to see how much time I spent each day looking at social media. It also stopped me many times from just checking it randomly. Instead, I would consciously check it. I would batch check in with my PLN. Instead of constantly responding to messages as they came in, I would wait until I deliberately chose to respond. I would then check all social media. Batching tasks together has been a game changer for me. This deliberate approach allows me to focus my attention and to be more present and productive.

Batch email – Working on taming the email beast

Times can be collected automatically by pressing play or by manual entry. This is a great feature as it allows you to add entries you may have forgotten. As I started using Toggl more, I started to add in categories that I have never logged. Informal meetings and ordering (like you Dean) took up a fair amount of time. The interesting thing about these new categories was when they took place and how often they would cut into a period where I was working deeply. In Toggl, you can see this by enabling the timeline feature. This feature allows you to see when in your day these items took place. Your energy is the best at the start of the day so this is the time that should be devoted to the most demanding tasks. This insight led me to adjust my environment. If I needed to work on a project that required intense concentration, I would find a quiet spot away from my team until that was complete. Once I was back in the office, I was present and ready to chat. This deliberate choice allowed me to feel like I was giving each of these important elements the right attention. Cal Newport calls this the ‘hub and spoke’ approach. Solitary work with large periods of concentration mixed with communal conversations. In David Thornburg’s words, cave time mixed with watering hole time.

Using the timeline to see when you complete deep work

This approach then lead me to utilise another feature of Toggl. Each recorded time can have tags added which can provide another filter to view your data through. I started to categorise each task as shallow work or deep work. I classified items such as email, ordering and social media as shallow work. Deep work examples are daily writing, teaching and staff professional development. Using the Report section of Toggl, I could break down each day into how often I worked in deep concentration on cognitively challenging tasks. I could then compare this to how much shallow work I was completing. This data really does open a Pandora’s box of questions. Deep work needs to be scheduled for the morning and in large chunks of time. Shallow work should be scheduled for the afternoon when my brain is slowing down. Toggl’s timeline feature also allows you to visualise this. You can see where your time goes throughout the day and see if you are setting your day out to fully optimise your body’s natural energy flow.

My deep work for the week
My shallow work

By using Toggl, I am being more proactive in how I decide to use my time. I reflect on the days that work better than others. Sleep is a big factor in how the day will pan out and so I am deliberate in my sleep routine to allow for a good night’s sleep. Measuring where my time goes is a conscious and deliberate decision. I want to feel like I have accomplished something with my day. I want time to work on the projects that make me feel alive. I don’t want the excuse of time to dictate how I live my life.

You have more time than you think.

The first step is to find out where it goes in the first place.

The next is to analyse it.

Are you spending your time wisely?

Design and Play – our podcast workflow

Design and Play – our podcast workflow

I have listened to podcasts for a long time. It is the medium that I get most of my learning inspiration from. I have written about my enthusiasm for podcasts here and here. Equally as long I have wanted to start a podcast but have been too… (insert excuse here). At the end of last year, I decided to stop with the excuses and start with the doing. The podcasts that I enjoy the most tend to have great banter between two hosts or an interviewer and interviewee so I set out to find a co-host. Dean Pearman and I had been exchanging great professional banter for quite some time (most of it in GIF form!) and so I asked Dean if he would co-host a podcast all about education and technology called Design and Play.

When Dean and I started recording the Design and Play podcast, we had no clue where to start. I had been collating articles and workflows that people had shared but we were total amateurs. From my reading and my experience working with media, I knew that having great audio was the key (D’uh!) but how do you achieve that when you physically aren’t in the same room. I hope this post sheds a little light on the workflow that we have developed to make Design and Play come to life.

Planning.
All of our planning is done in OneNote. We set out episode guides with information about who is doing what during the show (welcome, guest intro and outro, etc…), a list of key topics/questions that we wish to explore and a collection of resources and links to dive into as well as to share in the show notes. In our first few episodes, we were a little overzealous and tried to cram in too many topics but in the last few episodes, we have worked off two or three key areas and allowed time for the conversation to percolate. We constantly refer to this during the podcast recording but as you can hear during the show, we sometimes let the conversation go where it needs to go. We also have a permanent fortnightly booking in our calendars to record the podcast. We have found fortnightly to be a really manageable time to live our own lives, work, source guests, record, produce and then share the content socially. I would love to record every week but sustainability is a much more important focus for us at the moment.

Gear


I use a Rode Podcaster mike as my microphone of choice. I borrowed this from the library at work and find the sound to be fantastic. It is a USB mike so works brilliantly for recording straight into my computer. Speaking to our AV guy at work on ways to improve sound and he gave me a windsock to stop the popping and limit the heavy breathing during the recording. I record straight into my MacBook Air and compile everything on Garageband. We originally used Garageband as the sole recording tool but found some limitations. Dean and I use Skype during the process to connect with each other and our guests. After the audio in our first episode wasn’t as rich as we would like (Dean was stuck in a well), we did some research and landed on a great tool called eCamm Recorder for Skype. When we start a Skype call, the eCamm recorder window pops up. With a little adjustment of the audio settings, we are set up and ready to go. The reason I like the eCamm recorder so much is that it saves all recordings in an easy to access archive but more importantly, it allows you to export the recording as separate tracks. I’ll touch on this a little more when I discuss post production. Dean and I both use bucket headphones to listen to each other. We also try to find quiet spaces to record although if you listen carefully to the recordings, this isn’t always achieved. We also record a back up track using Garageband of our own audio. This is to prevent crashing and the loss of lots of hard work.

Dean, Terry and I in action on episode 4.

Post-production
The eCamm recordings are then dropped into Garageband and because they are on split tracks, I can adjust the audio levels to bring up the volume of each speaker. This allows the podcast to have balance and for the user to have a pleasant listening experience. The intro is prerecorded using music from www.bensound.com which is a fantastic site for (some) royalty free music. The post production phase takes a little while because there have been episodes with technical difficulty and so sometimes we need to split and cut tracks to edit out certain parts. To ensure quality, I make sure to listen to the track a few times which is time consuming just due to the fact that our episodes tend to run for 45-50 minutes. Once the episode is finished, it is exported as a Mp3 and saved to a shared Dropbox folder. This allows both Dean and I to listen to the complete podcast before it is uploaded. It does feel odd listening to yourself podcast but we want to make sure that the audio is of a high quality. From here, the file is uploaded to our Podbean site. We chose Podbean as a site as it is a site dedicated to Podcast hosting. As we were in the prototyping phase of the podcast, we wanted to be as agile with our solutions as possible. It meant that we also didn’t need to build a website initially. We do plan to do this and to blog to further unpack some of the episodes but for the start-up phase of the podcast, we wanted a site that could handle the hosting of the podcast, the RSS feed generation and the integration with iTunes. Podbean does all of this and as we move to our own website, we can still tap into Podbean to host the podcasts and simply embed the episodes on our site. The iTunes integration with Podbean make it really easy to manage the episode description, shownotes and iTunes specific requirements such as language, authors, etc…

iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher

Each of the spaces we make our podcast available have varying requirements to upload content. For iTunes, I simply followed the instructions found here and signed into PodcastsConnect. For every new episode, I simply refresh the RSS feed (there’s a link that I click in Podcasts Connect) and wait for an hour or so and the episode is live and available on iTunes. For Stitcher I had to sign up for an account which required a little waiting but it automatically updates now once the RSS feed is updated. SoundCloud is a little more manual and we are still operating with the free account, which unfortunately only has an hour upload limit. This means that old episodes are now not available. Podbean is fantastic because the analytics allow us to see where our listeners are from and how they are accessing our episodes. This really allows us to know where to target efforts to continue to promote the show.

Once an episode is live, we promote it via Twitter and LinkedIn. We have a Design and Play Twitter handle and this allows us to keep the word spreading.

The podcast is completely a love job. We love discussing topics of interest and have been overwhelmed with the response from people. We are still very much amateurs and I hope this workflow motivates you to get that podcast you’ve always wanted to start off the ground. Happy to connect and share to talk through any details.

 

Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts!

I have a slight obsession with podcasts. Since I first discovered them back in the good ole iPod days, I have been a regular listener. The EdTech Crew was the first education podcast to grab my attention and I would often extend my drive (the measure of a podcast in my mind) to finish an episode. I caught up with Tony Richards (@itmadesimple) recently and was hounding him to get the band back together so here’s hoping! Since then my listening tastes have shifted. I still enjoy education podcasts but find my interests lie now in more diverse areas.

For education, I personally can’t go past the TIDE (Today in Digital Education) podcast by Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) and Dai Barnes (@daibarnes) or The Education Review (TER) podcast by Corinne Campbell (@corisel) and Cameron Malcher (Capitan_Typo). Both provide tremendous perspective and depth to all things education.

Podcasts that align with my values in life have been growing in popularity on my podcast list. This all started with the Minimalists podcast, a podcast about two guys who gave up six figure jobs and a live of gathering wealth and possessions to live a life of value, joy and fulfillment. The reason I love this podcast is that it makes you question where your values lie and then challenges you to do something about it. This podcast led me to 10% Happier by Dan Harris and Waking up with Sam Harris. Dan Harris is an ABC news anchor that had a panic attack on national television, which led him to take up meditation. Dan claims that meditation makes him about 10% happier, hence the name and he regularly talks to inspiring people about their meditation habits on his show. Being a Weezer fan, I especially loved the Rivers Cuomo episode. Sam Harris (not related) is unbelievably intelligent and his podcast challenges contentious issues in the world as well as discussing the most interesting of topics.

My latest favs are the Unmistakable Creative by Srinivas Rao and The Tim Ferris Show by Tim Ferris. Both Srinivas and Tim look at business, learning, creativity and innovation through interesting perspectives and by interviewing amazing guests. Local representatives on my list are the Huddle Show by Huddle, a human centred design firm based in Melbourne and Future2 by Steve Glaveski (@steveglaveski). I have had the pleasure of getting to know Steve through his coworking space Collective Campus over the past year and his knowledge as well as the calibre of the guests on his show are second to none when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship expertise. Although this one was a once off podcast series, Seth Godin’s Startup school was also a great listen. I find Seth to be an amazing thinker who can take complex topics and make them accessible through clear narrative and anecdotes. He always blows my mind.

Other great podcasts to check out are Finding Mastery with Michael Gervais, IDEO Futures by IDEO, Office Hours by Dan Pink, Stanford Entrepreneurship videos, Stanford Innovation Lab and Freakonomics radio.

What’s on your podcast list?

Sensory deprivation and reflection


Image source: https://goo.gl/images/w83OfR

For Father’s day, I was given a gift voucher to a floatation tank venue. I had never heard of this before but as usual it was my wife’s keen interest in exploring it and her preference for me to be the guinea pig to test it out. I walked in with no idea about what was to go down but I went in with an open mind. A floatation tank is a sensory deprivation pod filled with salts that enable you to float. The experience is designed to block out the stimuli of the world and to allow you to be alone with your thoughts. The session begins with music to help you transition but after ten minutes you are on your own. Silent, floating, thinking, still…for 60 minutes. There are no screens, no emails, no noise and it is so incredibly peaceful. The mind still tries to move at the pace its used to but it soon runs out of steam and you’re left still, distilling and reflecting. In our world, there is not enough time for reflection. Taking stock of the journey travelled is as important as travelling the journey itself but reflection is often beaten by the bell or by the conveyer belt of the school day. At the end of the 60 minutes, I left recalibrated. It was the strangest feeling. It felt kind of like a rebirth.

The sensory deprivation/floatation tanks are popping up all over Melbourne at the moment and I think it is reflective of the times we live in. People are seeking escape from the noise, from the abundance of decisions, information and challenges. I get it. On my drive home, I was left with a clarity of thought that I hadn’t had in ages. I kept thinking about the world we live in and the world our students/children live in. There is a reason mindfulness is growing in popularity in schools and across the world, people need it. Being still, being present is becoming more and more challenging for people. There is so much competing for our attention and it is so easy to give in to it.

For me, the float was amazing. I got to really spend an hour with myself. I was present. I experienced a new sensation and I saw the world from a new perspective. It has led me to try to find new fresh perspectives to explore. I try to do these daily as a way of getting off the conveyer belt of the day and to stop and smell the roses. So much of our day can be on autopilot and so we need to explore ways to grab back the steering wheel and be present.

How do we disrupt our thinking?

Innovation is a constant theme throughout my blog. It is a constant theme throughout the books I choose to read, the blog posts I choose to read, share and comment on, the podcasts I listen to. I am enthralled by the process, the mindset and by those who do it well. The more I read, the less mystical it becomes and in the same breath the more difficult it can seem. Largely my reading leads me to business innovation as there is so much to learn from looking outside education, especially when it comes to how large corporations (insert schools here) adjust their path (quickly) and innovate. Innovation is the reason behind the CoLearn MeetUp. I wanted to move past interest and more into action and the themes of our MeetUps are based around developing innovation cultures, mindsets and tool sets. Education needs innovation now more than ever but innovation is not a person or a thing. Innovation is a way of thinking, a way of questioning and as I wrote in a previous post, a process. Maybe my obsession stems from my love of punk rock. I like seeing the world through alternative lenses, challenging the status quo. The challenge is moving away from the way we have always done things, to disrupt the current status. Disruptive innovation, a term made popular by innovation guru Clayton Christensen is defined by Wikipedia as

an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances.

Now that’s all well and good in business but how does that translate to education. What is the education version of Uber or AirBnB? I’m not sure on that one but once again it is the thinking that jumps out at me.  How do you disrupt your thinking? According to Luke Williams, author of DISRUPT: Think the unthinkable to spark transformation in your business, there are three steps. A key part to these three steps is being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Silly ideas, crazy ideas, whatever ideas, the key is to defer judgement. Let them swill around in your brain and let them be possible. As the famous cliche goes, you need to think outside the box.

Step 1. What do you want to disrupt? 

The area of focus needs to be high level. Think big.  Let’s say for example I want to disrupt the shape of the day for schools. Time is always listed as a constraint for schools, for learning. I want to disrupt the shape of the day so that we can discover better examples for our use of time.

Step 2. What are the cliches?

Williams describes cliches as “the assumptions that influence the way insiders think about the situation”. The assumption about the structure of the day is that it works for all learners, for all ages. Another assumption is that everyone learns best between 8.30 and 3.30pm.  Whatever suggestion, let the idea swill and defer judgement. Wear it for a while.

Step 3. What are your disruptive hypotheses? 

Start provoking the status quo. What lies in the adjacent possible? What can you invert? What can you deny? We need to defer judgement on our hypotheses and let them swill around in our brain. These are what ifs, fresh perspectives. Let’s say we start the day at 11am. Studies show that a later start would work for the developing teenage brain. What about if school followed the Spanish lifestyle and we had a siesta in the afternoon, followed by our creative subjects. It works for Don Draper! We would have to minus the scotch though. Whatever you land on, the thinking is the hero. From here you need to test and validate that your assumption works.

Now I know what you’re thinking. This is exactly the definition of innovation that parents think of when they hear teachers and schools talk of innovation. Experimenting on their children. It isn’t. It is seeing the beauty in new possibilities and finding out (quickly) whether or not this works. A great framework for how school’s can use this thinking can be found within Richard Olsen’s Inquiry Oriented Innovation process.  The strategic component of the framework has four categories.

1. Educational goals 

This is largely the purpose of school. The why. It can differ from school to school, school segment to school segment but it is the overarching vision for the school.

2. Stakeholder expectations/beliefs

What does the school community expect and believe? A strong correlation and connection between the educational goals and the stakeholder expectations is extremely important. Many families chose schools based on the school’s beliefs, goals and values. Many families Ieave schools because of the same thing. The strength of this relationship is paramount. The same goes for teachers. Teachers need to feel that they are valued and that the school that they work at aligns with their values (well at least they should!).

3. Student needs

According to Olsen, these are the pressing, changing or unique social and emotional needs, content, skills and traits that learners possess or require developing.  The needs of the students needs to drive all innovation in my opinion. Contributing to the development of young people is our core business and so should drive all quests for improvement.

4. Compelling opportunities

What are the great opportunities at our feet? What local, community, technological, global opportunities present new pathways? Identifying these can help develop innovative opportunities in your school. We can start to bring in the disruptive thinking process here. Most innovation is from recyled or repurposed ideas and so we can start to let the great, crazy and zany ideas swill around in our heads. Remixing ideas or smashing two or three ideas together. Using the ten types of innovation to see new possibilities. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

From here we develop our innovation thesis, our hypothesis. I’ll touch on this more in my next post.

If you are keen to know more about this process, come and join us at Collective Campus on Wednesday September 28 at 6.30pm. This MeetUp is for Melbourne based educators at the moment but the next MeetUp will be online. More to come shortly.

As always, comments welcome. Thanks for reading.

How do your innovations stack up?

In my last post, I talked about disciplined innovation and the Ten Types of Innovation.  In this post I want to spend a little time unpacking the ten types.  The work that Larry Keeley and his team have done is tremendous and I implore people to spend some time engaging with it.  Keeley and his team defined innovation as a “viable new offering” and through extensive research over the past thirty years have determined ten types of innovation.  These are broken up in to three categories, Configuration (what’s under the hood of your school, business or enterprise), Offering (core product/s or service/s) and Experience (how you deal with your students/parents/clients).  Below are the ten types of innovation and a brief explanation.

Configuration

  1. Profit Model – How do you sustain your organisation and create value for individuals (or make money)
  2. Network – How you connect with others to create
  3. Structure – How you organise and align your talent and assets
  4. Process – How you use signature or superior methods to do your work

Offering

  1. Product Performance – How do you develop distinguishing features and functionality
  2. Product System – How you create complementary services or products

Experience

  1. Service – How you support and amplify the value of your offerings
  2. Channel – How you deliver your offerings to customers and users
  3. Brand – How you represent your offerings and business
  4. Customer Engagement – How you foster compelling interactions

Definitions taken from Ten Types of Innovation book

The language is very business centric but the categories can be reworded to suit education.  The key to using the categories is to not see innovation as solely living in one.  In fact, Keeley and his team say that real innovation should be innovative in a combination of categories.  It is this approach that is exciting.  You can use the ten types to assess your innovation and as a guide to adding value to it.  A remix of categories can lead to the “adjacent possible”, bringing to light new ways of looking at a problem.

The best way I found to engage with the ten types of innovation was to take an existing innovative project (what I believed to be anyway) and assess it against each category.  Was is it innovative in any category?  Was it innovative in more than one category?  Looking at the project through the lens of each category also opened up new possibilities, had me raising new questions.  How could I improve the delivery to students?  Could I connect with others to create more value?  Was there any other complementary services that could plug in and amplify the project?  Using this approach was a really simple way to continually improve the project.  The great people at Doblin have also got a Ten Types iPad app which provides great explanations and innovation tactics for each category to help spark ideas.  It is free but you have to pay to get all the features.  Nevertheless it is still worth checking out.

As always comments welcome.

Learning space design inspiration

This is a collation of inspiration I collected for learning space development at Ivanhoe. I hope it inspires conversations at your school.
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