Category Archives: At work

Taking Your Work on the Road

Sometimes a change of venue can be a welcome thing. I found this to be the case during a recent week of working from the road over the holidays. It can be a boost to productivity and a nice change of pace if you think about the logistics a little in advance and plan accordingly.

Location, Location, Location

Finding wireless Internet access in advance is a must and it helps to have multiple options in mind. I had great success in coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and public libraries and broke the day up so that I was usually one place in the morning, then took a break for lunch before settling in at another location for the afternoon. Be a good patron! These places, especially the coffee shops, are busy and popular – poor form to take advantage of the wireless without being a good customer.

The Ballet of Battery Life

Not all of the locations above were equal in terms of availability of outlets/power strips. It took me a couple of days to scout out the prime seats (close to outlets) in all of these locations to plug in my laptop. Don’t forget the cell phone chargers! If you’re on the phone a lot, like I am, these batteries will need attention, too.

Joining Conference Calls and Online Meetings

Become a master of the mute button. This comes in really handy in noisier locations. If you have a headset for your phone or computer I’d recommend packing it. I left mine at home thinking it would be just another thing to carry but regretted that. In especially noisy places I found outdoor tables and even my car to be effective refuge locations for calls.

Adapt and Overcome

Back at home now, I have a new appreciation for the luxury of multiple monitors and the proximity of my own kitchen. My home office is a controlled and stable environment, but on the road be ready to adjust your location as needed and quickly, especially when preparing for conference calls. Murphy appears frequently, and seemingly out of nowhere, in the form of landscaping crews with leaf blowers, rainstorms, and school kids on field trips.

You Won’t Be Alone

I ran into plenty of folks doing the same thing I was doing – oddly comforting. We shared info about access keys and outlets, and watched each others’ stuff when someone needed a break.

For more information…

Want to find out more about working away from the (home) office? Check out the following:

Do you have experience workshifting? Share your advice and lessons learned.

Image credit: stock.xchng

Remain Calm…Part II

Earlier this year, in a post titled Remain Calm…and other writing on my wall, I wrote about collections of sayings, mantras, and quotes, we have at our desks. It’s time to share a few more.

The more you work, the more talented you get. – This one is everywhere, particularly with the small business, entrepreneur crowd I’ve been following lately. Ever notice how the hardest working people are the “luckiest”, too? Skill, talent, luck – it’s the same thing with these three. The more time and effort you put into something, like instructional design, the better you and your projects will get. So…press on, keep moving forward, and read this Copyblogger post by Sonia Simone for more.

Play it out. – Sometimes you’ve done all you can do in terms of planning, design, and development. When it is time to implement, I believe in pilot testing, but there’s a point where you have to put it out there and let it see what it will do. When that time comes, be ready to evaluate and make updates as needed.

Bounce off the wall. – We’ve all hit walls at some point, right? Personal walls, professional walls, they seem to stop us in our tracks bringing our momentum to a halt. Consider the action of the bounce. How can we cushion the blow and keep moving, redirecting energy in a new direction? On a design project these walls can be new requirements, changes, delays. Instead of grinding to a halt consider other options. I can’t remember where I got this one, but maybe Tigger was onto something.

Check path! – Yes, this one has an exclamation mark. Its practical function is to remind me to check the path when tinkering with file transfers. A couple of days ago I finished reading Switch and one of the three main components of change presented is the need to  “shape the path”. In other words, we need to change our environments and develop habits that will help us get from point A to point B. Are we on the right track? If not, how do we get there? Check your project’s path, your team’s path. Help to shape them so you get where you need to go.

I know you collect these things, too. Once again I ask you to share the wealth and positive vibes.

A Listening Post

Listening is an important part of our practice as instructional designers – listening to clients, listening to SMEs, listening to our team members, listening to leaders in the field… Having an ear to the ground and an eye to the horizon allows us to have some knowledge of what’s coming next so we can prepare, position, and not just react. To actively listen we have to focus our attention away from ourselves and towards what is going on around us. 

As I sit in meeting after meeting (many of us suffer this to some degree, right?) I find myself wondering if anyone is listening. We seem to cover a lot of familiar ground and make decisions that were decided in previous sessions. It can be easy to get caught up in the need to be heard. It can be easy to get caught up in the need to meet our own individual deadlines.

When I went through military training (eons ago) I learned about establishing Listening Posts and Observation Posts (LP/OP).  These were strategically positioned outposts that allowed for the collection of information. In my memory one of the key characteristics of these posts is that if you were the LP/OP you had to be quiet. You had to take accurate notes about what you heard and saw (collecting data!) so that you could share the information once you got back to your unit. I have no idea if these LP/OPs are still part of the way military units operate, but I do think there’s an opportunity for all of us here. It’s a simple concept, yes, but not necessarily easy to implement.

Where are your Listening Posts?

For instructional design, I rely heavily these days on Twitter. I follow a mix of people and organizations involved in instructional design and technology at varying levels and from multiple perspectives: k-12, higher ed, corporate training, textbook publishers, open education resources, professional organizations, thinktanks, and journalists. Twitter allows me to customize my own kind of news feed – one in which I can participate as well, but it’s only one listening post. Others include conference attendance and networking events. What do you rely on?

You’ll find a lot of people talking about listening these days, too, not only in instructional design, but also in social media, marketing, and business circles.

What can we learn from listening to what’s going on in other fields? What can we learn from listening to what is going on within our own field, within our own organizations?

Image credit: gregwake, Flickr

“Remain Calm”…and other writing on my wall

Right now a series of post-it notes is affixed to the wall across from my desk. Once in a while you hear or see something that really hits home, and you know it will again, so you save it. On those days –you know the ones – when every task is high priority and nothing seems to be working as planned, a quick glance can help bring perspective.

Remain Calm – when is this not good advice? Unless you are working in something like emergency medicine, you’ve got the opportunity to take a deep breath before making a decision, responding to email, etc. (And even in emergency medicine calmness is probably a welcome quality.)

One Task at a Time – This is an era of multitasking, right? We have computers, smart phones, instant messaging…all of which allow us to monitor multiple channels at once.  We can manage multiple priorities, but when it comes to true focus of attention, there may be a better approach.  Take a look at this article from NPR – Think You’re Multitasking?

Be Helpful –I think this one came from a tweet from Chris Brogan, but I’m not sure. I do remember that it immediately resonated with me. You can probably name these people at your workplace. They pitch in when help is needed. It’s a powerful thing and makes a huge difference in the day-to-day. I want to be one of those people.

Save the Commentary – All of those electronic tools mentioned above also allow for a back channel of commentary during meetings, presentations, etc. This one is closely linked to ‘be helpful’ above.  Does the commentary you might add help everyone to move forward? If not, it may be better to resist the temptation and leave it out. For more on the good and bad of back channel chatter, check out this post on WebWorkerDaily.

Swing Big – If there is a decision to be made or a proposal to put forward, go for it.  Be realistic, but stretch a bit.  It’s often that stretch, that willingness to take a measured risk, that will open opportunities.

I know you have these post-it notes, too. What do yours say? Share the wealth and positive vibes.

Additional Duties as Assigned

We’ve all found ourselves tackling assorted tasks that were not exactly part of the job description. (Once I actually had to build a sign with donated plywood and paint!) This may be particularly true of Instructional Designers. In a field that is dynamic and in an economy where organizations are striving to do more with less, the job description expands.

What takes up your time that isn’t in an Instructional Design model? Thinking about my last few positions and employers, these are the items that stand out for me and seem to be consistent:

  • Copyright/license research and documentation of permissions
  • Report writing
  • Keeping, typing, and distributing meeting minutes
  • Attending meetings, lots of meetings (I knew of course that there would be meetings, but…)
  • Conducting the hiring process and writing performance evaluations
  • Marketing (business development) at expos, manning tables and booths
  • Copy editing and formatting

I have personally and professionally learned from the process and everything involved. It all adds to your knowledge base and builds up your skill set – ultimately allowing you to do more and understand more about the organization.

What have you found yourself doing that was a little unexpected but added value?

photo credit: Beverly & Pack, Flickr

A Day in My Online Life

This post is a response to D’Arcy Norman’s Connect Project. The project asks: How do you connect to people online? As a remote employee, managing online course development projects, online communication and connection makes up most of my day. So to answer this question I tracked first who I connected with and then how the connections took place today.

Connecting with Colleagues: Today this includes my supervisor, co-workers, and project team members (an instructional designer, subject matter experts [SME], program chairs), and teaching faculty.

  • E-mail sent from a work account mostly answering questions about courses in development.
  • Calendar Tool (our organization uses Outlook) Looked at others’ schedules. Sent out and accepted meeting invitations.
  • Skype used for both instant messaging and for a conference call. I currently have a Skype Number I use for work. I can call outside numbers and others can call in to my Skype account from their phones, too.
  • On Sharepoint I posted updated files for an instructional designer and reorganized a folder with docs that are posted in all of our courses. I also responded to an issue posted by an instructor on another Sharepoint site.
  • I uploaded documents to Basecamp and introduced this tool to a new SME to kick-off a project. Basecamp includes our project milestones, to-do lists, existing content files for editing, etc.

Connecting with Students: These are the consumers of the courses I help to prepare and produce. I am not currently teaching, but I think I connect with students nonetheless through updates to individual courses in our Learning Management System. This took place in the form of:

  • added Announcements,
  • updates to reading lists, and
  • review of a course in the final stages of development.

Connecting with Friends: Friends, family, and former colleagues

  • E-mail sent from a personal account. A former classmate just received news of a job offer! (Note to self: send e-card.)

Connecting with the Public at-large: posting information and responding to others’ posts.

  • Twitter via Tweetdeck is usually running on my computer. Today I sent out a few tweets and followed a little bit of the #ecoo conference. The majority of my tweets are related to work, either passing along some piece of information I think might be helpful or asking others for recommendations. This is the newest way in which I connect with people online.
  • Blog posts like this one. Hopefully it will help me connect with a reader or two. I also posted a comment on one other blog today.

While not used today, it is also worth mentioning that I often connect with others online via synchronous web meeting-type spaces. My employer uses Adobe Connect Pro and this has been successful recently for professional development sessions and a virtual conference.

How is your online day different from mine? Any suggestions for new tools to connect?