Finding My Way Back On Track

If you were to only look at my site stats for November, you would see that I am having one of the best months ever…but I haven’t posted anything since the beginning of October. Most of my traffic is coming from recipe pins on Pinterest which makes sense since this is the type of weather where you just want to curl up with a bowl of soup or stew. In other words, it is Instant Pot weather and I have a lot of recipes for that. So why haven’t I posted anything? Well, it comes down to motivation and I have had a decided lack of it lately.

There were a couple of things that led to my lack of motivation. Work has been extremely busy because new hires finally started after being short staffed all summer, but that also meant they had to be trained. We also finally heard back from Social Security about my husband’s application for SSDI. He was denied, so we are appealing the decision. Honestly, that decision had me floored since everything I had read about the SSA Blue Book rulings led me to believe he would have been approved on the first shot. Then the killing blow happened at the end of the month when I got back the numbers on how many participants I had for my doctoral study. Out of a pool of over 400 people invited to participate, I only had 8 people participate in my survey. This was two years of work, taking at conferences to inform people about what I was researching, etc…and nothing. Colleagues, co-workers, even friends didn’t take 20 minutes out of their time to help me out. I hit a rut hard and am only now digging myself out.

Now, I teach about Happiness and Productivity. I know all about fueling your fire and flipping the script to be more positive. I also know that when you get in that rut it can be hard to dig yourself back out of it. So what can you do (and what did I do)?

Self-care is a big one. I stopped putting it off and I went to get my hair cut. It might not sound like much, but I was not happy with the way my hair looked, so that was only contributing to the problem. I got three inches cut off and bangs. With my hair looking better, I also felt better. I also prioritized me and my family. We spent the Thanksgiving holiday at home instead of traveling to visit anyone. We took our time making the meal; it was also a simple meal. We watched a lot of movies during the break. Having a stress free holiday was wonderful. I did all my holiday shopping online during the sales; so I can also say that I slept in instead of braving shopping madness. Of course, I also read books. I will have another update posted with the books I read this month. I also did some simple baking of muffins, Instant Pot experiments, and setting up some of our holiday decorations…all of which qualify as small “c” activities (everyday creativity), which can help reduce stress.

The other thing is to make a list of everything you have to do and sort that list into priority order. It is okay if not everything gets done right away, but bonus points if you do give yourself a deadline to accomplish the task. Writing the tasks down gives the task value and importance. When we give it a date or time that it needs to be finished, we are more likely to stick to completing that task. We hold ourselves more accountable. So I am back to making my lists. I use Amazon Alexa to keep a list of things I need to buy. I have multiple lists for things like groceries or things I need to buy or gifts I am tracking in the mail. I have a paper planner for my personal tasks and I use my task list in Outlook to keep track of my work-related tasks. It is important to have a system in place and to be consistent. Yes, I like post-its for reminders too, but too many can create clutter and that can just stress us out further. So I try to keep my post-its strictly for the quick notes that need additional information (like the phone number for a doctor’s appointment that I need to schedule) or the reminders about the Big Hairy Goals like focusing on graduating next year and taking a big family trip to celebrate. In other words, the reminders to celebrate and look forward to something. I also have a whiteboard setup to list my three daily gratitudes. I also decorate that whiteboard with little drawings. Currently, I have a Christmas candle with holly, but I did have a turkey on there last week. Once again, using creativity to help alleviate stress and feeling overwhelmed.

I plan to be fully back on track with everything in December. It is a new month and a new start. Let’s get this holiday season rolling!

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Goals for September

I probably should have shared this on Saturday, but the idea didn’t occur to me until after I had already posted and I didn’t want to have too many posts overlap, but I have seen a few bloggers post monthly goals and thought it was a neat idea. As someone who teaches productivity, I know that writing it down makes you more likely to follow through and if you are to share the goals, that makes it even more likely that you will achieve your goals. Creating SMART goals strengthens the likelihood even more, but well, let’s not go too far…

So this is what I hope to achieve this month, I will do a round up post at the end of the month to see where I stand on those goals:

1. Pass the IRB Committee Review

If you have been reading for a while, you know I am a doctoral student. I am at the final stage of my education: the field study. However, before I can send out my survey and schedule my interviews, I have to pass the institutional review board for my university. Basically, proving that I am not doing unethical research on humans. Usually, the process doesn’t take that long, but for some reason, my university has a backlog. So it took two months to hear that they needed me to make some edits to my study proposal. I am hoping that I hear that I am approved this month because well, I still have to pay tuition even though I am just waiting. Sounds fair, right?

2. Contact all the doctors

We actually have three doctor’s appointments just this week alone! And when I say “we” I mean my husband, but I go with him for most of his appointments because he has memory issues. Total this month I think there are five appointments not counting the weekly checkins with his counselor and the nurse practitioner. My husband has an autoimmune disorder on top of many other conditions, but we live in an area that doesn’t exactly have the best medical options. So we are trying to get him into a special clinic up in Baltimore that specializes in his condition. However, they won’t even schedule an appointment until they have all your medical records sent up to them. So we have a cardiologist, a rheumatologist, a pulmonary specialist, a neurologist, and his primary to contact to get his records. I have to say that the nurse practitioner at his primary’s office is awesome because she has helped me figure out the process for getting all these records released and who I need to get them sent up to.

3. Post at least one blog post a week

I know I have been slacking, but it has just been an overwhelming summer between the dissertation edits, being short staffed at work, teaching my summer graduate course, and a whole bunch of other things happening all at once. So I would like to get back into the swing of things. I really do like writing and I feel like as much as the statistics show you all like when I post my Instant Pot recipes, those post can be a little bit of a cop out because they don’t take much time or thought to put together (well, the cooking does, but I am just reporting on what I did). So I hope to get some more substantial stuff up on a more regular basis.

4. Upload a short story to Kindle Direct Publishing

I noticed the other day after looking at all my unfinished works in progress, that my inspiration tends to fizzle out once I get to twenty five pages or so. So I think I need to start smaller. I have been toying with the idea for a while of uploading something to KDP and I have a story that is almost ready to go. So after a couple more edits, I will try my hand at self publishing. Once I do, I will create a post here detailing how the process went and what my progress looks like. Might as well do it while I am twiddling my thumbs waiting for that IRB approval, right?

So fingers crossed that the next 30 days go smoothly! Stay tuned for updates and if I can keep to my monthly goals.

Personal Learning Networks

As was mentioned in a previous post, one of my classes this quarter is on Social Media. More specifically, it is about social media usage in K-12 schools. Since I do not work in a school system, I approach the topic more as someone who collaborates with schools and that is kinda how I approach my Personal Learning Network (PLN). The people in your PLN should extend beyond your current field or friends. But I am getting ahead of myself…

So what is a PLN? Let’s start first with the PLE- Personal Learning Environment

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Everyone’s PLE is going to look a little different.

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This is what mine looks like:

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I have it broken down into five sections: Resources, Curation, Networks, Communication, and Locations. Your PLE is always in flux and could change depending on what resources are available to you, your current interests, or even your current career. For example, in my course, we are using Wikispaces, but the platform has just announced that they will shutter the site this summer. This reminds me a lot of the Digital Media Concepts and Production course I took as part of my graduate degree. I was introduced to a lot of great resources, but many of them don’t exist now because they merged with other products, the company was sold or went bankrupt, or there just is no more interest in it. Then there are some that we think are gone, but still exist…did you know MySpace is still up and running?

Now to focus on the network part of the PLE, we have the PLN:

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There are three types of PLNs: Synchronous- meaning real-time, Asynchronous- meaning not in real-time, and Semi-synchronous which is a blend of the two. This blog is an example of asynchronous.  If you visited my social media links, those would be semi-synchronous because we could connect in real-time or play a virtual version of phone-tag. *hint* I am usually always online with either a tablet, a phone, or a computer somewhere close by. So there is a good chance you will catch me via one of the social networks.

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Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook make up a big part of my PLN. I try to keep everything separate depending on the platform. For example, Facebook is for friends and family, though I have been branching out to include some private FB groups related to blogging. Next is LinkedIn which I keep strictly professional. I will connect with librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, publishers, and many others related to my scope of professional interest like educators, STEM, training, etc. I find people through conferences, trainings I have attended, and even follow several authors. Twitter is a mish-mash of the two. My Twitter contains people I know in real life, but also many others that I have never met. Some I follow for entertainment…my current Twitter obsession is following David Harbour’s adventures with his Twitter ReTweet challenges.

I am waiting for those “dad dance” pics with the penguins…

Then there are others that I follow for professional reasons such as the current Kid Lit controversy about notable male children’s authors sexually harassing other authors.

While I don’t attend the conferences mentioned in the articles, it is important that as a librarian, I am aware of stuff like this. This is why it is important to have people in your network from outside of your silo.

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I admit that I am not very active on the socializing part when it comes to using my Social Networks to their best advantages. I am working on that. In the meantime…

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Sometimes just observing can be okay while you figure out what is okay and what is not for a particular platform or group.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ITSE) has developed standards when it comes to technology usage in education. As a student, I think I am rocking it as far as the standards are concerned. This blog has gone a long way towards helping that along with sharing information and trying towards being a global collaborator. I teach at the graduate and professional levels rather than K-12, so the teacher standards also look pretty good to me, but that is because I have a lot of resources available to me. I teach via virtual classrooms and learning management platforms on a regular basis, so technology and my teaching are pretty integrated. Many of my students are current or future media specialists, so we try to also include resources that they can use in the schools (which is why I am taking a school focused Social Media course).

One thing I have learned is that when you plan on using a particular social media tool, plan on a backup as well. Last time I taught my grad course, we planned on using VoiceThread which allows you to narrate slides via a cloud upload. It only worked for half the students. So I quickly came up with an alternate submission platform using the course’s discussion boards. Now when I teach the course again, I will have that backup already available as an option.

I used to be a member of the Association for Library Service to Children‘s Children and Technology Committee, so teaching best practices, or media mentorship, when it comes to technology use and children is something that is very important to me. Technology is not going away, so it is important that we teach our children how to be responsible technology users. If we shelter them from it, then they are going to make mistakes because they haven’t been taught what responsible usage looks like. If we want them to learn, we are going to need to show them that we are willing to learn as well. So the question is, where can we go to learn?

As a librarian, the archive of resources from Little eLit has been a valuable tool that I still use with my grad students. ITSE has great educator resources. The perfect blend for me of librarian and educator is following the Daring Librarian who is a middle school librarian. She posts great tips and resources for her PLN. Pinterest also has great resources like app reviews and how-to manuals. Twitter has Tweet Chats on various topics. Your library may also have resources like Lynda.com for learning how to navigate the various tools and platforms. I currently have learning about Instagram on my to-do-list.

The closing down of Wikispaces does bring one question to mind…we are posting all this great content. So how can we make sure that we are archiving or preserving it for the future if the place we posted it will no longer exist? Where do we go from here?

 

Of things to come…

This next month is going to be pretty crazy for me. I just don’t know how to say no sometimes. I think I am finally starting to realize that I am becoming over extended. Yes, being Not Quite Superhuman is catching up.

I registered at NaNoWriMo’s website but have not written a single word. I just like my WIP too much to switch to another idea right now. Though I admit that I love this month because there is just soo much advice out there from writers, agents, and publishers. The fabulous Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, was at my library last month. She started out during NaNoWriMo and said community was the best thing she took from the experience. So for the moment I am going to follow along on the networks and lurk on the blogs for all the advice and ideas that can be found.

I have also started what I am calling the great coupon experiment. I am in month two of trying extreme couponing. So far I am spending the same amount of money each month, but my pantry is full and we have been going out to eat way less. This month will be the true test because even though it is just the three of us, we still spend more when there are holiday meals.

I also started reviewing over at No Flying No Tights which is a graphic novel review website. Yeah, finally a legit excuse to spend more time reading manga and watching anime.

I fully have plans to revamp this blog started prob in January with more of a defined schedule. Some features that I am toying with are more book reviews, discount deals, and crafts. I am not sure yet what the schedule will be or what names I will call the features, but in the mean time I will offer a peek at a great discount deal. Enjoy!

Head on over to NoMoreRack for great deals on electronics, clothes, and more. Deals are good just for either one day or when they sell out, whichever comes first. You can get some items for up to 80% off or more in some cases. Plus shipping is just $2 per item. Great for holiday shopping!

Twitter Twit

Follow me on Twitter! @woofer_kyyiv by Slava Baranskyi
Follow me on Twitter! @woofer_kyyiv, a photo by Slava Baranskyi on Flickr.

Okay, so around this time last year I was very anti-twitter. I just couldn’t see a need for it when Facebook did everything that Twitter did. That was until I seriously started blogging and writing and, well, you get the picture. 

It helped that I spent a lot of time on my smartphone and was seriously bored. Yes, there is an app for that. It made me realize how many of my favorite authors, agents, and publishers were using twitter. The great thing is that they will even reply back to your comments when you @mention them. There are even Q & A events using hashtags like #YALit and #AskAgent. Very helpful.

I even won a box of books from an @YALSA twitter #whyYALSA contest. Coolness!

Twitter is a great resource for me. I am connected to other writers and bloggers. I am able to keep up on new technology and other trending topics. I can even find out the latest Dr Who and Marvel news.

BTW last night because the wonderful @KierstenWhite and @WolfsonLiterary retweeted the link to my book review for White’s Supernaturally, the blog has seen 100 hits in two hours. That is a record. Now how can you not love that?

Come follow me on Twitter @JHopwood80