Corrections to My Annual Review

Dear Human Resources Representative:

I recently submitted my self-assessment portion of the college’s annual work review through the online Employee General Overview worksheet as required. However, upon further review, I have come to realize that there were some factual errors and misreported details included in the E.G.O. worksheet I submitted.

I request that you please append the following corrections:

  • When I estimated the amount of time I spend responding to emails, I was including the time spent on the many emotionally-charged responses I craft in my mind before an actual response is sent. The more accurate time should be 10 hours per week, not 50 hours.
  • Among my accomplishments for the year, I mentioned completing a major web content audit for our chemistry department in only one week. However, the actual work only took me about four days, and the rest of that time was spent watching videos of chemistry experiments and explosions on YouTube.
  • Under professional development, it should read “growing expertise in user experience” instead of usher experience. I’m already pretty confident in ability to usher, and almost none of it is useful in my current position at this college.
  • I was not honest when I said my “power animal” is a tiger—I was just trying to seem impressive. My actual “power animal” is a flying squirrel, and I’m not ashamed about it. Flying squirrels are awesome.
  • In my list of goals for the year ahead, it is accessibility that I hope to improve, not our excess ability. I fully support the improvement of any excess abilities if we have them, but feel strongly that accessibility is far more valuable for our community.
  • I don’t know what I was thinking when I included Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” on my desert island music list. Please replace it with Madonna’s “Borderline” instead. It’s a classic, and again, I am not ashamed.
  • I was wrong—it is *not* currently possible to patent or copyright a hashtag.
  • My correct Myers-Briggs profile type is “ENFP” not “R2D2” — I aplogize for the mixup.

Chaos Practice

I feel bad for chaos. It’s such an important part of the universe, yet nobody seems to want it around. We live in a world that values order, or at the very least, predictability. Whenever the systems or environments we rely on behave differently, and chaos starts to emerge, we feel we must exert our will to make it stop, to impose a sense of order once more. But we can never actually be rid of chaos, and I’m glad for that.

Chaos may be messy and unpredictable, but that’s also what makes it reliable. It’s what makes me grateful for chaos—I know I can rely on it to keep me from getting too comfortable.

In the core mathematical concept of chaos theory lies a simple, observable phenomenon: that small changes in the position or composition of a chaotic system make a big difference over time. That’s a pretty good explanation for what happened to me over the past six weeks or so, as I made slight deviations from my normal routines and habits to focus on big project deadlines and a conference presentation; suddenly a little pile of lower priority work I couldn’t give attention to has grown into digital and physical mounds of information like something out of a “Hoarders” television special.

There are piles and lists and notes and folders and sketches to be sorted, magazines and books and stacks of reports to be read. In a nutshell, my office is a mess, and all my productive habits have fallen apart. As of this writing, I have 2,026 unprocessed work emails in my account—unprocessed meaning they are either in my inbox or in one of a few different “action” folders waiting to have actions performed that have not yet been performed. Among these messages, 456 are marked un-read and 83 are flagged as important. And that’s just my work email. I’m afraid to even look at the numbers in my personal email accounts right now. Continue reading →

The People I Trust

I’m sharing my process as I prepare the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is Part Seven; you can find an index of all previous posts in this series on my #ShareHuman page.

I work with a great bunch of people at Ithaca College, and I think I probably owe a lot of them apologies.

I’ve been more than a little cranky and irritable this week because so much of my attention and creative bandwidth has been taken up by the work we’re doing together in our teams—really big, exciting work, but in overwhelming quantities—and that makes the part of me that feels like I should be working more on my conference keynote really anxious that I won’t be able to pull it off.

I think I may have let that frustration slip through the cracks of my attitude in a meeting or two over the past few days. I’m sorry about that.

But it happens to everyone of us eventually. We are all humans with lives outside of work, with personal stuff we have to deal with. We’re adults and we figure out a way to get through it, and as our work lives become more closely knit, we also grow to understand how and when we can support each other through stressful times as well as joyous ones.

The people I work with are really good at this, and make me feel lucky to be a part of their team. They make me feel valuable, and at the same time I am in awe of all the special and effortless talents each of them possesses. That is exactly why my office colleagues are the first people I am turning to for feedback on my presentation.

Within a couple hours of this post being published, I will be presenting a dry-run of my keynote just for them in our conference room, and it will be the first time I have walked through my entire talk out loud in real time. In fact it will be my first time actually putting words to the slides, and trying to string together ideas and themes that have up until that point have really only lived in my head.

Honestly, I’m pretty nervous about this moment. I’m not even sure if the presentation I’ll have to share with them is complete enough to be coherent, let alone cohesive or valuable. But I’m also eager for this moment to happen, because I already know that my colleagues are there to help.

And I planned it all this way on purpose, knowing it would force me to get a full talk completed a week early so I could get the feedback I need from people I trust most. An audience who will be forgiving when I stumble, laugh when I need it, and give me notes that I can really use. People who know me and what I’m trying to achieve, and who want to see me succeed and represent them as best as I can.

Getting this presentation on its feet for the first time for people I trust might be the most important final step in this entire process, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I did this same thing the last time I was creating a new talk and it was a huge benefit for me and that presentation, because my colleagues helped me see clearly what needed to be cut, what needed to grow, and what was missing from the presentation I had, and cleared the path for me to make it into a presentation that succeeded beyond my greatest hope.

So thank you in advance to all my colleagues who will be there to help me this morning, listening and taking notes, being picky and being honest. Despite all the work we all have to do, you are taking time from your day to help me be better, and I can’t thank you enough. I only hope I make it worth your time.

And I’m sorry again if I’ve been cranky or anxious. I know you understand.

The Panic

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is Part Five; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

And now is the part of the process when The Panic starts to settle in.

The more I start bringing all the pieces of my presentation together, the more I feel my mind trying to pull it all apart, seeding doubt into every choice I make.

Is that really what I’m trying to say?
Is this too much? Is it not enough? Is it too obscure?
Will anybody even notice? Is it too obvious?
Do I need to support this idea more?
Is this even an idea worth discussing?

The Panic wants me to question everything.

For every little note I’ve made, every scrap of an idea I think I can use, there are four others I don’t get to. There seem to be so many paths I can follow but I’m building the map as I go, and it’s unclear if all those paths intersect or lead to the destination I’m hoping for, or if anyone will even notice the details that stick out to me.

I think this is what I mean, but is that the right way to say it?
Why doesn’t that look right?
Is this font better?
Maybe this font? Or maybe this font?
What am I even doing this for? I’m no expert – who am I kidding?
They’re all going to see right through me…

So I stop.

Take a breath and walk away for a moment.

Deep down, I know that as long as I take my own advice and focus on being Honest, Unafraid, Mindful, Active and Nice with my work, then the work will reflect that and turn out right. And yet The Panic lurks, waiting for me to let my guard down, waiting until I am most vulnerable and doubtful that anything I’m working on makes sense.

Continue reading →

Archaeology

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is Part Four; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

For a few years, when I was about six through nine years old, I was really interested in being an archaeologist. At the time it probably came from a fascination with dinosaurs I shared with many kids at that age, as well as my general ongoing interest in Science! as a thing I enjoyed learning about. I was also excited by discovery, digging and unearthing pieces of a puzzle, figuring out how the pieces connect and learning the story they tell.

My interest in dinosaurs faded by the time I was ten, replaced by science fiction and space exploration (Lego!) and something in our new “computer lab” called an Apple II (Logo!). But my love for discovery and unearthing the bones of a story have never really gone away.

Which is a good thing, because now I find myself at the stage of putting together my presentation where I have unearthed a whole mess of bones, but I have no idea which ones actually belong to the skeleton I’m trying to assemble and which ones are part of a different beast altogether.  Continue reading →

Making Room for Ideas

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is my second entry in the series. You can find Part One here.

There’s something about the first of the month I’ve always found hopeful, so when I get the first day of the month and the first day of the week on the same day, like I did on Monday of this week, it always feels extra special to me. A Double First Day feels like the planets are in alignment (oh, wait – they actually are!) and the universe is telling me that this is a perfect day for starting something.

I chose this Double First Day to start focusing on a new goal: reduce my cognitive load as much as possible and give my mind more room for creative thinking. Because if I’m going to deliver the keynote talk I want to next month, I’m going to need all the creative energy I can get, not to mention all the time I can get to actually put it together.

Continue reading →

A Tote Bag of Ideas

As I wrote last week, I will be giving a keynote presentation at the upcoming HighEdWeb New England regional conference. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity because I know I’ll be able to use the time I’m being given to talk about something that has become very important to me over the past couple of years: sharing.

The working title for my talk right now is “Share Like a Human” and in the spirit of sharing (along with some inspiration from Austin Kleon), I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes thoughts and processes as I put my talk together.

Starting this week, and over the next seven weeks or so leading up to #hewebNE I’ll be chronicling my progress as much as I can without giving away the actual content of my talk.

Why bother doing this? Well, in a lot of ways I’m doing this for myself as a way to organize my thoughts with purpose, and writing about a process or idea often helps me figure out the details of what that will be. But I also think it may be helpful to others working on presentations or talks of their own to see how another person prepares for it.

I don’t claim to be an expert at giving presentations, and the way I do things may not work for everyone. I build presentations in the way that works for my own needs and habits, using a structure and elements that draw on my past experience and training as a writer and performer. But whether you’re working on a keynote, a conference presentation, a classroom lecture, or just leading a discussion, I think there are elements everyone should consider and plan for.

Continue reading →