All Posts in Getting Shit Done

February 03, 2014

Every Day Publishing, One Month Later

On January 1, I publicly declared a self-imposed challenge that I’d write something on this blog every day. It took me three days to cheat.

So then on January 5, I changed those self-imposed rules of the game from “writing” to “publishing” every day. And here’s what January 2014 looked like in terms of sharing with the world.

17 tweets

I realize this isn’t really an impressive number and a lot of people do this before breakfast or from the bar before their second drink. But we’re talking about a guy who tweeted only 8 times in October of last year and only 5 times in August. So let me enjoy it.

6 blog posts

I fell off in the second part of the month, mainly because I was spending what would be blogging time getting ready for public speaking time (see below). Still, I managed five more posts than the one that I made in October 2013, and infinitely more than the zero posts published in November and December.

3 talks

Well, I gave two talks (one at UCLA and one at General Assembly) and sat on one panel at GA. I’m further changing the rules of the game by adding public speaking as another form of “publishing”. It works since a goal of this challenge is to turn myself into a courageous idea-spewing machine impervious to any fear of criticism or exposure, and public speaking has historically given me a lot of anxiety. Spoiler alert: the more I do it, the easier it’s getting.

2 presentations

Arguably these are just a by-product of giving talks, but I count them anyway.

2 DJ mixes

I have absolutely no aspiration that these are going to take me any further than the second bedroom that I make them in, but DJing used to be a huge source of enjoyment for me and before this month I literally hadn’t touched it in almost two years.

1 side project

I launched an Instagram x Vine mashup, Vinestatube, that I had been messing with for an hour here and an hour there on-and-off since the middle of 2013. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have landed the plane on this without the extra fire that this challenge put under my ass. Maybe next month I’ll actually tell someone about it and get a user or two on there.

I’m not gonna lie for a second: I’m proud of myself. While I don’t think my writing has gotten stronger or more confident yet, I also don’t find myself infinitely postponing that single click on the “Publish” button. On the other hand, I’m definitely starting to feel like I’m finding a speaking voice and gaining more confidence in front of a room. And as a side effect, I dusted off a hobby and made myself launch a side project even if it was a bit unfinished.

January 28, 2013

I Quit Information For Three Months & Nothing Bad Happened

When I got back from a vacation in October, I turned down the volume of information in my life for a few months. Things were a little less exciting, but I sure could get a lot more done.

Information stopped being fun and turned into a little bit of an obsession and a lot of time suck somewhere between the introduction of Growl and the Notification Center to my life. So the simple assumption that I made was that less information—less email, Twitter, reading, blogs, news, whatever—would translate into more professional focus and more, I don’t know, inner peace or something.

What I tried was a little bit of 4 Hour Workweek and a little bit of improvisation. I indefinitely turned off always-on apps, so no more Twitter For Mac or iPhone Twitter clients, no mail apps or notifications on my laptop and definitely no push email on my phone. I stopped reading the Internet which meant no more Reeder (my primary source of consuming content) and no more Hacker News. And I took it as far as shutting off current events in the form of trading NPR for the Stern show, a new habit that just cost me $95 for a year of Sirius.

If it was really important, I found out anyway

I’m primarily a primarily passive observer on social networks. I really use them, and Twitter in particular, as one big collaborative information filter. Without that, I thought that I might fall out of touch a little bit.

Luckily there’s also a lot of curation that happens in the form of, like, hundreds of IRL interactions a day. Obviously I didn’t miss out on what happened in the election, but even more nuanced niche-y industry stuff like some new video analytics startup coming out of beta or YouTube previewing a redesign didn’t slip past me.

I did miss the feeling of being really on top of my game that comes with being the first guy to “discover” something. Most of the time, though, all that meant is that I read it on TechCrunch ten minutes before my colleagues and who cares, really.

Pushing back on push notifications

Simply turning off “push” information flow had the biggest net positive effect on focus and productivity. I will never, ever go back to push email. Never. Ever. Seriously, fuck push email unless you have the willpower of a thousand men and can resist with impunity the siren song of the new mail notification.

If you are even a little bit on a maker’s schedule, push email is a mortal enemy of flow state and is part of a conspiracy to prevent you from solving any remotely complex problems. Checking email should be a conscious decision, done when it makes sense as part of your individual schedule, rather than a motor reflex in response to the rest of the world’s perceived urgencies. A lot further down the list but still noteworthy was the freedom that came from not feeling like I had to respond to every tweet or Facebook mention at a moment’s notice.

Less news is good news

So it’s pretty obvious that a constant stream of fragmented information is going to end up fragmenting focus. Less information consumed equals less “wow, that’s interesting but what about this” equals less unscheduled tours that take me down into the far reaches of the Internet and back again.

Less expected was the calm that came from my self-imposed ignorance. And yeah, this says more about my general level of angstiness compared to the average person than it does the benefits of an information vacation. But turning off information actually helped me turn off a little bit of self-doubt and second-guessing. Clearly it’s good to stay humble and hungry for knowledge, and good to stay up on your competition, but it’s also sometimes an advantage to just think about what’s in front of you instead of getting caught up in what others are doing. It helped me to focus on the things that I can immediately control.

So why not quit forever?

For all those productivity wins, my little information hiatus had a really subtle but cumulatively negative effect on my actual for-real-for-real social life, especially as it relates to the tech community. I attended just one meetup in the last three months. I’m someone who really enjoys this stuff and the friendships that come out of being active in my community. But I can also be incredibly introverted when I want to be. I’m guessing it was a lot easier for me to go home and watch four seasons of Sons Of Anarchy on Netflix straight up back-to-back because I wasn’t hearing about these events and didn’t have any external pressure to get my ass up and out.

And over time, not having access to the information flow that enables little day-to-day interactions that cumulatively strengthen casual and developing friendships starts having an effect. It wasn’t just meetups I was missing; it was the bullshitting around on Twitter that leads to getting invited to some random afternoon BBQ.

So, although moderation’s never really been my thing, I’m going to try a measured approach. This past week I fired up that Twitter client for the first time in a long time, but turned off the Growl notifications. I’m narrowing my RSS feeds down from, like 212 to 21. And I’m really enjoying it now that I know I can do just fine without.