Recently, I facilitated a virtual book tour for my second book on blended teaching and learning. At each tour stop, I began my presentation by defining blended course design so that we were all on the same page.
A key component of blended teaching is that it is a replacement model. You remove face-to-face class time and replace it with online content delivery. That means that a course that typically met twice per week might now meet only once, with the remaining content, activities and assessments delivered online.
One of the common pitfalls of blended course design is that an instructor can forget about that replacement model and just add in a bunch of technology on top of everything else. This results in what is called the course-and-a-half syndrome, or a bloated course where everyone (students and teachers, alike) get overwhelmed with too much content and too much to do.
After presenting that definition over and over throughout three days of virtual tour stops, something occurred to me:
I’m not currently practicing a replacement model with my projects—but should I be?
(As an aside, this is just one of many elements of course design that I think could be transferable to other elements of our professional lives. For example, I wrote about applying backward design to writing productivity in this co-authored piece).
I asked myself:
When I add a new project to my plate (which is usually already full), do I need to take something away to compensate? It’s like that advice you get when you buy new clothes — when you bring in a new item, you should take out an old item so your closet doesn’t get too full.
The answer seems obvious: Yes. It makes logical sense to not have too many projects on your plate. It’s that whole work/life balance issue that I’m still thinking about.
And yet, that answer just doesn’t sit right with me.
At least right now, creativity isn’t a faucet that I can turn on and off. Maybe this is something that I will learn with time, but lately, the more I create, the more ideas and projects seem to come my way.
And I’m having a LOT of fun. I look forward to these projects every day. I’m excited. I’m energized. I’m happy.
And it’s not just the creating part that’s so great (although that’s pretty awesome by itself). I’ve found that it’s the sharing of what I’m creating that’s also super fun. Here’s just a few examples:
- I get to connect with other people over my ideas. I’ve met all kinds of new people on social media and through my podcasts and email newsletter because I’m regularly sharing new content.
- Other people build on my work. For example, this week one of my essays inspired a reader to write his own post on the subject. How cool is that?
- People tell me that what I’m sharing has helped them. I get thank you emails and tweets every week for the essays I’m sharing through my newsletter.
- I learn new things. Just yesterday, I traded ideas about online course creation with a colleague who reached out after seeing my book trailer.
These kinds of connections are really making me see the importance of being intentional about how I share what I create.
If I’ve learned anything over the last year of releasing a new book, writing weekly essays, and producing two weekly podcasts, it’s that it’s not just the current space on my plate where I need to make room for new projects. I also need to be attentive to the future space when the project launches to the world. Once I’ve created something new, my work is just beginning.
At first, I was worried that if I didn’t pace my projects, I would create a log-jam of things all releasing at the same time. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to give each project the time that it deserved in terms of promotion. What if something got lost in the mix?
For example, this spring I’m promoting my second book, my first book from 2014 that was just released in paperback, and an edited collection that’s due out in April. I’m also planning to release an online course on academic book promotion in the next couple of months and I’ll be launching a new podcast project in April as well.
Next year, I’ve got several projects releasing around the same time. My third book, two edited collections, and an edited series with three books being released simultaneously mean that six books that my name is tied to in varying degrees will need promotion in 2018.
But here’s the thing: I think that log-jams signal something. And something that’s really positive. It means I have built a portfolio of work. Especially in terms of publishing, thing are really humming along.
And that has some benefits.
When I have just one project to promote, it’s hard to know how much and how often to talk about it. I can start to feel a little desperate because I’m using all my energy and social capital to drive attention to that one project. I’m watching the metrics daily to see what’s making a different in sales, site visitors, or download rates. I start to tie the success of that project too much to my own professional identity and worth.
But when I have several projects going all at once, I can’t just focus on one thing because I need to promote the portfolio of my work. Each thing I promote is one of many things on my plate, so I end up:
- Not privileging one project over another. Everything is synergistic, which means each thing can be equally weighted. I spend time thinking about the best way to promote each project and how to connect each project with other areas of my portfolio.
- Not making things bigger than they are. Since I’m juggling so many projects, I can’t worry so much about the ones that are kind of scary — they have to get done just like everything else.
- Not worrying too much about metrics. My larger portfolio draws people in to learn about my different projects through multiple avenues. Someone might start with my podcast, but then also check out my newsletter or website. All my projects contribute to the success of the others.
As I’m starting to streamline my work into certain areas of expertise, I can better see how some of my projects are more synergistic to my portfolio than others. One thing references another. One project leads to another. If you liked this project, you might like this other thing I’ve created.
I’m now more actively focusing on these synergies. The question isn’t whether I have the room on my plate to add another project. It’s whether the new project supports and connects with what I already have in my larger portfolio of work.
To think on:
- What does your portfolio of work look like? What synergies are you creating?
- What are your favorite ways to promote your work? What benefits do you see from sharing your projects?