attention & value.
One of the reasons I love writing is that forming coherent thoughts ends up changing my mind. And sometimes my behavior. My previous post on what we value ended up being one of those things.
We live in a world of insane inattention. For me it started back in 96 with AIM. You can sign-on and type to people whenever you want. Why not just keep it up. Then email became indispensable. Then there was not only IM’ing friends, but checking their away messages every little bit to see what was going on (the *original* status message). Blogging. Facebook. Twitter. Brightkite. Google Lattitude. Then there is the ridiculously awesome content freely available, constantly updated: drudge, nyt, espn, huffington, politico, message boards, list, goes, on, and, on. All of these things compete, relentlessly, for our attention.
My original post was really about the meta and, sort of questioning how we viewed life and living it. The eventual impact on me was about the 15 minute increments in my life though. Tim’s written well on this topic and, really, this is what his book is all about. 43 folders has always been about this whole philosophy. I thought I’d share my unique take and thoughts:
1) I’m using BubbleTimer. It sounds kind of anal. OK, I guess it *is* kind of anal. The premise is that you define a set of things that you spend time on (and that you want to spend time on). You then bubble in where you’re actually spending that time during the day.
One, it holds you accountable. Fifteen minutes is a ton of time during which you can accomplish a lot if you focus. It’s hard to get sidetracked when every 15 minutes you realize that you just spent it doing X or Y and you’ll be documenting that. It actually reminds me of one of the few things I still remember from 4th grade. The teacher gave us this cool hack. When things got too crazy busy and we felt overwhelmed, we should stop what we were doing and stare at a clock for 60 seconds. Do nothing else. When you watch that second hand sweep fully across, you truly realize how much time we have.
Two, you get great data visualizations back which like using Quicken, Mint, or Smallspend for your money will help you make some choices to improve things. I’ll see where I spent too much time, too little time, etc.
Three, there sort of is no three– but i’ll try. I guess you could count the goals as three. We each set high-order goals around New Years. Go to the gym. Talk to Mom more, etc. Well, you can set time max and min’s here. If you don’t bubble in the necessary time here, then you’ll see that you failed. Pretty good for that accountability thing.
2) I’ve given up on email. Sort of. I don’t turn off my Gmail notifier and don’t keep up my work email all day anymore. If you’re like me, you feel an urgency to respond to everything asap. I hate to leave someone hanging, so I ended up spending way too much time responding to emails. Aside from the raw time of email, it also interrupts your workflow. It might start with checking and responding to an email. But I’ll eventually end up on espn.com or on the couch watching House M.D. (how awesome is that show, btw.) So I’m doing email at set times and trying to ignore all others. All most all the really sharp, productive people I know do this. I’ve finally got on the bandwagon. For now. I’ve tried and fallen off a number of times on this over the years. Oh, and shockingly, this includes paring back substantially on twitter, facebook, linkedin, IM, and my other social indulgences.
3) Everything is a draft. This is probably the most singularly meaningful change I’ve made. It came from this post and the full line read: Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
It’s only been a few days, but this has been a ridiculously liberating line. I’ve always had some amount of trouble pushing things out there. Why? Probably because I was used to get reprimanded as a kid for stuff that wasn’t done right. I guess this gives you a fear of failure. I’ve thought a ton about fear of failure and it’s impact on my life from a macro level, but not in the micro. It’s impact is as, if not more, pronounced in the every day of my life. Since I was nervous that I was doing wasn’t perfect, I dreaded starting it or, more precisely, especially sharing it. Now, what I’m trying to do is do it as quick as I can and reassure myself that it’s just a really rough draft and will be judged like that. It’s freed me up to just do it, and then we’ll figure out the rest later. If you’ve ever felt this pang, repeat the mantra of “everything is a draft.” So great.
4) Do it or kill it. From the same list: Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it. Married together with #3 above, this is a recipe for just getting stuff done. I’ve always had a million ideas bouncing around in my head. But since I want the perfect way to do them, it often takes me too long (if ever) to get them out there. When my alternative is to do something with it within a week or to add it to my kill list (more precisely, my “someday” list from GTD), it spurs action.
In this world of realtime sharing, our attention is more precious and in demand than ever. I could spend half my day reading my Google Reader feeds, responding to emails, seeing what my friends are up to, reading Foreign Policy magazine, etc, etc or I can control my attention and try to marry that up to what I value.
So I’m seeing two stages:
Stage 1: On the day-to-day, what matters? What do I consider high value and things that I’m satisfied I did at the end of the day? What’s not?
Stage 2: At the 1000 foot level, and specific to how I want to go forward, what matters to me? What would I be disappointed I never did in my life if I only had a few years to live?
Admittedly stage 2 will inform your stage 1, but gaining more control of your minute-to-minute will, I think, embolden you and free you to the higher order thinking. Hopefully this ramble wasn’t too theoretical. It’s past 1 at night and I’ve been sort of distracted talking to arjun on IM :) Oh, and forgive poor grammar, this is a published draft.