I spent some time at the end of last week at the Association of Collegiate Computing Services (ACCS) meeting in Charlottesville, where I gave the Thursday morning keynote and sat in on a few sessions including an excellent overview of the Sakai and iTunes University by James Hilton, soon-to-be CIO at UVA. (You can hear James Hilton talk about the podcasting experiment at Michigan in this podcast.)

Driving home, I really felt like a major league fraud. It’s hard to talk authentically about the energizing potential of Web 2.0 when you haven’t posted to your blog in a month.

Bed and  BreakfastAt the beginning of April, Janna and I headed out of town for a trip, and I realized that it was the first weekend in five that I had taken off, butI didn’t have a whole lot to show for it. I had put my off blogging, commenting on blogs and even reading blogs. That weekend I made an April Fools Day Resolution to put some concentrated effort into getting a handle on my workload.

Like lots of other technology types, I’d been intrigued by David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, and I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to implement some of those ideas. Merlin Mann, who has become one of the prophets of the GTD movement, describes the method way:

  • identify all the stuff in your life that isn’t in the right place (close all open loops)
  • get rid of the stuff that isn’t yours or you don’t need right now
  • create a right place that you trust and that supports your working style and values
  • put your stuff in the right place, consistently
  • do your stuff in a way that honors your time, your energy, and the context of any given moment
  • iterate and refactor mercilessly

The key is to identify all the stuff that isn’t finished, including your backlog of projects. In doing your inventory, you make a distinction between next concrete actions like “download WP 2.02” and projects which the Wikipedia describes this way:

# Projects – every ‘open loop’ in your life or work which requires more than one physical action to achieve becomes a ‘project’. These are tracked and periodically reviewed to make sure that every project has a next action associated with it and can thus be moved forward.

I was amazed at the mass of unfinished business that was sucking the energy out of my work time–coming up with a list of several hundred concrete actions and 94 separate projects that were all lurking just below the surface of my consciousness. Now that I know what how strong the enemy is, the I’m trying to “do my stuff in a way that honors my time, energy and the context of any given moment.”

The unfinished projects vary dramatically in their scope and importance–ranging from “Over the next three months, schedule an hour meeting with each of the 35 academic department chairs and program directors to assess their technology needs for the next 2-3 years” to “find an environmentally responsible way to get rid of the wide format printer with the dried up ink cartridge that’s been living under my desk for the past year.” According to the GTD theory, a small voice reminds me every I see an “unclosed loop” like that printer–sucking engergy that could be used for something more valuable. The theory is that once you have all these open loops identified, energy that was been wasted can be focused on actually completing projects. Like blogging maybe.

I’m making some progress, but it’s a huge task. Folks in AA say that it takes 90 meetings in 90 days to get the recovery process off to a solid start. I think it will take at least that long to put a dent in the pile that I need to get done. But, in the ride back from Charlottesville, it occurred to me that cutting the blogosphere out of my life probably was short-sighted and that I really need to be a part of the conversation on how these new technologies may shape teaching and learning at the university.