Where do you find the time for you?

I read an article in an education leadership journal today that talked about the need for teachers, and especially those who hold demanding leadership positions, to take time out of each day to step away from the job and do something just for you.

It brought back to me a moment recently that really did make an impact.

The family had been bugging me – nagging me quite frankly – to sign up to Netflix. So after 90 minutes on the phone one evening renegotiating a contract with Telstra and extricating us from some pretty banal Foxtel content, out came the computer and Netflix entered our lives.

Screenshot 2015-05-04 22.46.45

(And yes, I have shamelessly grabbed this image off Google image search – link here –  because it is perfect for this post and none of the CC pics for my search ‘Netflix monster’ pulled in anything worth using. And yes, it is 10.49pm at night, and I’m too tired to spend hours finding a CC image that’s worthy. Sorry Lawrence Lessig.)

You would have thought the Messiah had entered the room, such was their delight when the realisation struck that I had signed up for the four screens deal and everyone could be viewing different content at the same time. Yes, it was that kind of moment – open mouths, devices switched on and the hunt for the perfect program was on.

Now, I’m no longer a television watcher – there’s no time for that. I’m present, but my mind is elsewhere, either tackling work for school or watching the twitter stream with it’s endless links to interesting content roll by. I can keep my head around some reality television offerings, because you can dip in and out and there’s a part of me that likes prying. But for the most part, television represents too big a commitment. I’m too busy to invest in a space that requires me to tune in at specific times and stay the course.

But I did wonder about this Netflix thing, so into the world I entered.

I could feel the pull as soon as the personalised suggestions started scrolling across the screen. There was ‘Rainman’ a film I haven’t seen for more than 20 years, but one I’d really enjoyed and have wanted to see again. In the next view, a bunch of series I’ve heard people talk about were tempting me, drawing me in, promising me hours of quality immersion into worlds far removed from mine. I succumbed.

I watched the first episode of ‘Call the Midwife’, and I knew this was a relationship I needed to sever. I had to cut the umbilical cord connecting me to Netflix and the temptations within. You see, I really don’t think I can let myself loose in a space like that, where entertainment flows at the command of your fingertips. It comes at a cost, and the cost to me is time spent learning, time spent feeding the information junkie part of me that is sustained on a diet of content that feeds my mind and sets the synapses into overdrive. ‘Call the Midwife’ would entertain me, but would it feed my soul and set the synapses spinning?

Somehow, I think maybe I need to find the nice middle ground in all of this, and the article I referred to earlier made that pretty clear. Netflix isn’t the answer, as I discovered when my husband tuned into ‘The Killing’ and I lost four hours one afternoon before I threw my hands in the air and declared that I really couldn’t do this. He could, and devoted large swathes of his life over the next week to unravelling plot twists until he finally declared freedom from Netflix’s tangled web when all four seasons had been consumed.

Maybe it’s walking, maybe it’s reading novels, maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s none of this, and maybe I need to come to terms with the fact that maybe it doesn’t matter, because I enjoy immersion in spaces that other people think replicate work.

Maybe I just need to be at peace with me.


New at Voices from the Learning Revolution – Evolution of an Information Junkie

My latest post over at the PLP Voices from the Learning Revolution blog is, ‘Evolution of an Information Junkie‘.

It’s a bit of a reworking of a post originally written here under the title of ‘Divided Attention Disorder – I think I’ve always had it.’ I’m really pleased the piece is getting another airing in the Voices space. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I write pieces I am particularly proud of. I like a turn of phrase I’ve used, the flavor of the writing, the message it conveys. This piece was one of those. I’d always hoped it had received more attention than it got initially, because I think it deserved it.

How things have changed. Three years ago I would never have had the courage to be so bold as to write the paragraph you’ve just read. I didn’t think I was a writer really.

I do now.

How powerful this tiny blog, this vehicle for communication, has been for me. I’m so glad I had the guts to give it a go.

Divided Attention Disorder – I think I’ve always had it.

I read an article written by Colm O’Regan tonight about Divided Attention Disorder. It was yet another one of those articles talking about how our brains are possibly changing as a result of our use of online information. We’ve heard similar arguments from Nicholas Carr, who wrote the article ‘Is Google making us stupid?‘ and has gone onto pen, ‘The Shallows‘. (It’s worth noting I think, that Nicholas is making a pretty penny cashing in on this message.) Colm’s description of the way he works sounds very much like me;

My Internet browser has 24 tabs open. Among them are three separate attempts to reply to the same e-mail. My online banking session has timed out, and in the corner of my screen a Twitter feed is a never-ending scroll of news and links. Which I click. And click.

People who work with me and students I teach are often incredulous at how many tabs I have open at any one time. It’s of no consequence to me; I know what’s there and why I have them open.  This is how I live now, and I’m perfectly comfortable with it. I don’t think my brain is being affected in any way. In fact, if I analyse my information seeking ways from the past, this is just part of the natural evolutionary process as I see it.

You see, I’ve always been an information junkie. When I was a young child, reading was my passion. I consumed books from my school library, and if I could get my hands on a copy of the Reader’s Digest, I was in heaven. I loved anything, television media included, that provided me with knowledge, any detail that helped me piece together the workings of the world. I would latch onto a topic, and explore it as best I could, with the resources I had at hand. Very often I was limited by the constraints of the age I was living in. If you were obsessed with ghostly phenomena in the late 1970’s, it was what was on your local library’s shelves that had to get you through.

I haven’t changed. I’m still an information junkie. What has changed is the world I’m living in, and the fact that the information is at my fingertips 24/7, if I choose to use a computing device and pay for an internet connection. Do I read books as much as I used to? No, I don’t. Do I think I need to? Only if they’re worth reading and can provide me with more than what I can access for free from online sources. Is my attention span different? Possibly. But once again, it’s the quality of the information that keeps me reading. If something is good, I’ll devote the time to reading it through. If it contains a hyperlink that has me wondering, I may leave the original source and investigate where it leads me. For me, this has become natural. Yes, I function differently to how I did five years ago, but it’s part of the evolutionary path an information junkie follows I figure.

It’s not for everyone. I had a conversation with a close friend last night about this very thing. We are different. She has no desire to spend hours looking at a computer screen and is content with the way she lives her life. I respect that. Do I think her life may change as more and more of how we access information transfers to the Web? Yes, I do. Will she be like me? I doubt it.

She’s not an information junkie you see, we’re a breed all our own.