In this new year many of us have promised ourselves to try and find more balance in our lives. I personally vowed to spend more time connected with the earth through hiking, walking on the beach, and playing hard with my four 20-something kids. And yet with all of the meaningful work I am engaged in online I often find it difficult to unplug. How does one balance their personal and professional lives, especially while living in a world where often those in the communities to which I belong contribute to a significant part of my personal growth and constitute a great deal of the human interaction I receive each day? How do I draw the line in the sand between have-tos and want-tos when because of the personalness of the connections the lines have become grayed?
TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP
Some folks tell me that if I buy the Life Balance software for iPhone and iPod touch that it will help a multi-tasking mobile professional like me who struggles to keep up with the demands of their busy life. Life Balance(TM) is personal coaching software that helps you to decide what to work on, so that you can put your effort into the goals, projects and tasks that really matter to you.
Scott Elias, Expert Voice in the New Jersey cohort of Powerful Learning Practice is looking closely at this issue of balancing our real and virtual lives. He gives a powerful tip for keeping up with the deluge of email you are receiving.
"First, if the very idea of having an empty inbox sounds absurd to you, check out Merlin Mann's "Inbox Zero" series (complete with a video of a talk he gave at Google). The most useful idea I took away from this series if the idea of scheduling short email "dashes" where you process what you've got and move on."
Scott also shares a tool for helping to managing your "to-do" tasks called Remember the Milk. Scott likes RTM (as those "in the know" call it) because adding tasks is super-simple. "You can add directly from the web interface, you can follow @rtm on Twitter and "Tweet" tasks to yourself from your cell phone, or you can email single tasks or lists of tasks to a special, top-secret RTM email address. Once you've sent your tasks, they show up in your inbox."
Technology is willing and able to help us keep us organized and accountable. More than ever before we have the knowledge management tools to help us keep up! Such as these--
So we have to ask ourselves is technology the problem when it can provide so many solutions? Or does true balance come from somewhere else?
My superintendent, a wise man indeed, once told me that technology only gives the illusion of saving time because we quickly fill the time we save with new tasks resulting in our professional lives being even busier than before. In many ways I think his perception is true. It as if we have this empty void we are all trying to fill. We are all looking for that sense of purpose in knowing what we are doing will matter in the end. It is the struggle of balancing the tension of change- wanting change, realizing that something different is needed and yet being terrified of losing something valuable in the long run. John Connell once told me that it isn't change we fear, but loss.
ARE WE FOCUSING ON THE WRONG THING?
Stephen Downes says, "The difference between the physical and the virtual is illusory - it is a distinction that has been marketed hard by companies that want to keep selling you paper. But the virtual is the physical - the people online are real, the computers are real, the impact of your words is real, and it all happens in the physical world to people with physical bodies."
Maybe that is why balance is so hard to achieve? Maybe we have been focusing on the wrong thing? Maybe the tension isn't between balancing our real and virtual lives, but more about balance in life in general? What I do online is very much a part of my real life. I am building real connections with people around the world from whom I am learning a great deal. My life is richer and I am a better person because of the relationships I have built online. The work I do is purposeful and meaningful and very much a part of my real life. Maybe the answer to making it all work comes in understanding how to integrate it all and realizing that by letting go (change) I will have loss, but what will follow will make me more effective in reaching my big picture goals. The secret is realizing that virtual is part of our real world now and it can't be thought of as "one more thing" added to our already impossible day, but rather it needs to become a seamless, embedded part of our normal day. Kind of like how families adapt when a new child is born. Somehow we find time to incorporate all the new things that have to be done in caring for a baby into our busy lives. We fumble at first thinking we will never adapt and then before you know it is becomes "business as usual."
I look forward to learning with you this year as together we try and find balance in our lives and turn business as unusual to business as usual.