A day in the life of a futurist, 2018 edition

Last year I blogged about a day in my work life.  People have told me they appreciated that glimpse into daily futurism practice, so I’ll offer another one now.  Perhaps this should be an annual thing.

6:00 am – I wake up in a hotel near Washington, DC’s National Airport.  That’s because American Airlines stranded me there.  The previous day I’d visited the Minnesota eLearning Summit in St. Paul.  After a fire and brimstone keynote address I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from many people, from campus leaders to technologists, media specialists and vendors.  I took in several conference sessions, then headed to the airport.  American managed to delay the day’s first flight badly enough to break the connection to the second; hence my overnight in a hotel.

But the hotel had some (not much) broadband, so I could accomplish work.  First thing in the morning I grab the laptop and check a series of news sites: Google News, Inside Higher Ed, HackerNews.  I also look quickly at Twitter to see if anyone has pinged me with something urgent, then check several lists (family, education, politics, futurists); ditto GChat; ditto Facebook.  Fire up a YouTube playlist of energetic music.

Then into email.

7:00 am – more emails.

8:00 am – quick jaunt to hotel restaurant for a too-substantial breakfast.

8:30 am – These emails are a heterogeneous lot.  Newsletters appear.  Old clients reconnect, while new ones write with questions about current or forthcoming work; these pings range from basic logistics (receipts, flights) to planning programs to concepts and strategic queries.  FOEcast activists continue working on the about-to-be-announced project.  Various announcements of different web activities (blog comments, etc.).

Then it’s time for a quick dive into Inoreader, my current RSS Reader, to check on clients, current events, and some searches.  One fascinating genetics story:

Along the way I add several stories to the in-proces August FTTE report.

10:00 am – place a “Do not disturb” sign on the door, because the morning video event is coming up.

I was scheduled to work with a fascinating new client for an hour over video.  We actually developed an elaborate plan, including me beaming in from afar, while eliciting audience feedback through Kahoot (to get them talking, as well as thinking about classroom tech), all prepared with some Google Docs.

So I make sure my laptop, camera, and mic are set.  Run a speedcheck; decent enough speeds, although latency is higher than I’d like.  I email my remote client to make sure we’re all good.

Then back to emails.

10:50 am –  fire up the video client and get to peer into their meeting room.

For the next hour I take them through a selection of major trends.  My Kahoot questions get them talking all right.  More questions bubble up, still within the timeline.  Tech issues crop up, unfortunately, so there is backchannel to address them along with my keeping the flow going.

Noon – I cordially thank my hosts, then disconnect… and run.  I have two hours until today’s Future Trends Forum at 2 pm, and can’t stay in the hotel past 1 pm at the latest.  My rescheduled flight is for 10:45 pm, and the airport has lousy broadband video, so I’ve arranged to visit my daughter just west of Fairfax county.

So I run down to the lobby, luggage bouncing under my hand, and smoothly check out.  Then it’s out of the building and stomping uphill for nearly a mile to the nearest Metro station, reflecting on the morning video.  I snap a photo along the way:

August heat is rising, so descending into the station’s cooler depths is a relief.

I remember the route I must take, find the platform, wait, and board the right train.  Then I was riding on the Metro (and now you can’t unhear it)

writing on the metro

When there’s signal, I respond to fresh emails on my phone.  When the signal drops, out comes my MacBook for further writing on the book.  The trains are taking longer than I planned.

The Silver Line ends at Wiehle Station, and I leap out and run to the pickup area, there to snag the Uber I’d just arranged for.  The driver is fascinating, a peace activist who drives to keep his cause afloat.  Traffic gradually drops, but the clock is (metaphorically) ticking. I plug earbuds into my ears and into the laptop, ready to roll.

1:59 pm – the car deposits me at my daughter’s block and I jump out, three bags in one hand, earbuds looped to my head, and my laptop open and already scanning for the right WiFi.  Into the house.

2:00 pm – I’m in a kitchen chair breathing heavily, a nice array of pots are hanging on the wall behind me,  and the Future Trends Forum is live.  “Welcome,” I cough out, and we begin.

Forum: Kelly Walsh_George Station

I manage my customary live tweet or two.

3:05 pm – I bid the Forum community farewell and exit Shindig.

For the next hour it’s catch-up time, responding to emails that have piled up over the past few hours.  There’s some social media activity to address: Twitter, blog comments, Facebook, even Google+ and LinkedIn.  I share some stories, like this important one about black students and student debt.

Also, I tell American to refund tonight’s flight.  I’m going to stay with my daughter until the rest of our family arrives in a few days.

4:00 – 6:00 pm -research time.  I work on the August FTTE report, which involves a Word file and multiple Chrome tabs.  Every detail resonates with the book, so a half-dozen extra Word files are also open, one per chapter, as I add words to each.

There are also details for upcoming Future Trends Forum sessions that must be dealt with: responses from guests, queries on Slack, two Mailchimp campaigns to edit.

I consider publishing a blog post, but it’s really too late, and should be done tomorrow.  I’m also tired enough that I risk some editorial errors.

6:00 – 9:30 –  finally, time with my splendid daughter.

Gwynneth and dada

9:30 – 11:00 pm – more writing.  More emails.  Some Facebook discussion.  Then my eyelids malfunction.

…and that’s one day.

Looking back on it, it seems pretty crowded.  It definitely felt rushed, with a lot of physical travel, different types of media production, relying on various transportation mechanisms, and catching up with a continually refreshed string of queries.

I didn’t get to do much reflection as a result.  Sometimes I have time to think about certain details of education’s future, as when I’m doing housework, driving, or standing in an airport line because American Airlines boards planes badly.  This day just had too much going on.

It’s useful if unsurprising to see how much of my work depends on digital networks, how uneven they are, and how accustomed we are to the latter.  Nobody groaned on the Silver Line when the car slipped out of 4G coverage, because we expect it.  Conversely, at no point was I beholden to a physical office, as my work exists in a distributed assemble of brain, devices, networks, and multiple storage/service sites.

What does this day tell us about being an independent futurist?  Our clients loom large, and we continually care for them.  Media production takes time, as do social media – for some, this is pure marketing; for me, it’s a mix of conversations and idea development.  Between discussion, logistics, friction, and working with clients, ideas about the future grow and ricochet.

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