Yikes.

I’m absolutely loving my new job as a school technology director this year, but I’ve been so overwhelmed and behind on multiple outside commitments (as well as work emails) that I haven’t been blogging much. This year I’ve stepped down from two significant volunteer positions as an elder for our church (a 3 year term) and treasurer of my kids’ school PTSA (thankfully just a 1 year gig) so that has helped enormously… but I still have quite a few outside commitments. These can significantly detract from “evening discretionary time” when I might want to share something on the blog.

I’ve been very cognizant the past four years about WHEN I blog, and almost always write as well as post to my blog late in the evening after everyone else in our family has gone to bed. During the five years I spent as an independent consultant (yes that meant zero employer-provided health insurance for yours truly) this wasn’t an issue, but after returning to fulltime “traditional” employment it has been again. Even if I’ve have had some time to blog during the day, which is rare… I wouldn’t want someone (like a parent who might email my boss) saying something like, “Why is he blogging during the day? Aren’t we paying him to work for us?” I do share now on Twitter during the day, because it is an essential tool to do my job, but our public use of social media as educators is always fraught with a level of uncertainty as well as risk. Given the risks and the benefits, I’m certainly still willing to take them. Blogging has been an important part of my identity for over ten years now, since I started back in 2003. It still is. I use Buffer to schedule some of my Twitter posts during the day, but not blog posts… I always post them right after I finish them, which (like tonight) is inevitably late at night.

The past couple weeks, I’ve been feeling guilty that I haven’t gotten several important things done, that I’ve thought, “If I blog about something, they’ll be wondering why I’m spending time blogging instead of getting my to-do list finished.” This evening I finished a significant “to do” item, so I feel at last that I can spend a few moments writing some posts. Of course it’s late, and I really should get to bed, but the blog is calling… and tonight, I will answer, alebeit in briefer paragraphs than I might otherwise write if I was on holiday.

I do appreciate and enjoy the opportunities which digital communication technologies present to us, but I also keenly feel the pressure to “keep up” and specifically keep my work email inbox empty or near empty 24/7 now. It’s been beneficial to have an opportunity to “start afresh” with a new email inbox and new email habits in my job, and I am striving to fully implement the “Inbox Zero” ethos of Merlin Mann. I’ve been there a few times in the past few weeks, and I’ll get there again… eventually. If I tried tonight, I’d conservatively spend three hours on work email… and I’m NOT going to do that now.

In his May 2015 article in The Atlantic, “Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000: A Unified Theory,” Joe Pinsker (@jpinsk) postulates:

There are two types of people in the world: those with hundreds of unread messages, and those who can’t relax until their inboxes are cleared out.

Under this definition I have a split personality, because I’m both of these people with work email versus personal email. The current procedure at our school for faculty/staff reporting an IT helpdesk ticket is sending an email to a shared account, which seven of us on the “technology team” receive a copy of. We’re on the brink of transitioning to a ticketing system powered by SchoolDude, and this could dramatically affect all our inboxes. For now, however, work email is a constant mental presence for me whose demands are impossible to meet unless I devote significant evening time several times per week to it. The past few weeks I’ve done this, and this week I will again… but not tonight.

The past several weekends on Saturday morning, I’ve found myself waking up into a mental state of reviewing my tech director “to do” list in my head. This isn’t a sign of a healthy separation between work and home life. It’s impossible to make an objective comparison here, but I think my wife probably has an even harder time than I do “leaving work at work” and not having her headspace at home largely dominated by thoughts about work and the demands of her challenging classroom role.

Thankfully, one of the wonderful things about the school where I now work is daily chapel service. I’ll admit the Episcopal approach to chapel has been considerably different than what I’m used to or expected, but the simple opportunity to take about 20 minutes to be still, to sing a song of praise and worship, to hear scripture, and to meditate on a message has been a refreshing joy for me. I’m not required to attend chapel, and I haven’t attended every day, but I do try and attend when I can. This is a photo I snapped this morning of our chapel right after I arrived at work. My office is actually part of the chapel complex, on the left side of the building as seen in this photo. It’s a HUGE blessing to have a routine opportunity at work to attend chapel services.

We are all busy people, and the challenges I face now in my new role as a technology director are in many ways much easier and less taxing… both psychologically and physiologically, than teaching 300 students per week in six classes per day. The last year as a STEM teacher, I couldn’t go to the bathroom between 8:50 am and 1:00 pm every day, because I taught five classes back-to-back. I’m still in shock in my new job with a bathroom right beside my office, which I can use anytime I want. There are HUGE reasons I have cognitive dissonance moving from the public school arena into the private school / independent school sphere. In many ways I feel like I’ve been elevated to a 2015 version of Elysium that is literally ten minutes from our house. Work is still like a honeymoon, but a very hard-working honeymoon.

I’m going to continue working on my own mindfulness and my pursuit of essentialism. I am deeply thankful for the blessings of the present which I see clearly all around me. The opportunity to help my in-laws move and transition to a new assisted living retirement community in Texas has brought a flood of thoughts and ideas to my mind the past month… and that is a topic for another post entirely. Yep, I’ve been too busy to blog.

But tonight, I’m back, and it feels great.

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On this day..

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2 Responses to Too Overwhelmed & Guilty to Blog Much

  1. grahamwegner says:

    Hi Wes, I’m only reading this a week or so after you’ve written this but there is much that I can relate to in your post. You still blog much more regularly than I have done for the last few years but I can still “hear the blog calling me” like you. I am also very conscious that blogging for me happens on my own time even if I am reflecting on work related topics – and the only time I use Twitter on work time is when I am at a conference being part of backchannel learning.

    I found your points about the two types of email users – I am definitely an Inbox Zero person, and having all of my email accounts flowing into Mail app on my phone makes it very easy to get on top. But it can be very intrusive and impossible to forget about those digital tentacles. I hook my iPhone up to the car stereo and had to make a 5 hour trip yesterday. On the iPhone even on silent there is a slight decrease in sound when an email pops into the inbox, so on a day where I was taking a trip to take my Mum home after a hospital stint, those drops in volume prompted my brain to wonder what that new email could be about. When I stopped to buy a drink on the way back, I just had to check and get the inbox back to zero.
    Clearly, I don’t do this with Feedly or you might have had this comment ten days ago!
    Once again, thanks for sharing. Your STEM club info on Spheros robots was invaluable earlier this year and I should have given you some online feedback then.

    Cheers,
    Graham

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Graham: Thanks so much for your comment and feedback – and I’m glad the Sphero robot info was helpful too! I’m not afflicted by the same drive to keep my inbox at zero… but I probably should be! It’s a challenge to navigate all the potential and available digital information interruptions we face today.
    -Wes

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