Blog bankruptcy

I now have one million half written blog posts in my drafts folder (more or less).

I suspect this is a pretty common situation.

This morning I’m declaring blog bankruptcy and accepting that I’m never likely to have the time to finish many, if not most, of them.

There are a few which are pretty much done, but have just never been published for various reasons. I’m going to keep these, and push them out over the next couple of days.

In keeping with my theme of the moment, the others are toast.

Deleting them is a big relief. If I’d known that I would have done it much sooner.

My name is Rowan, I’m an addict

Some say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

For the last month or so I’ve been using a great tool called RescueTime to help me put some hard numbers around the size of my computer addiction.

RescueTime is a YCombinator company, and part of the latest in-take. They have just recently made their tool available to the public. As you would expect they are iterating quickly at this point, and it seems to be getting better and betters as they tweak it.

The system is very simple – you just run a small application in the background (available for both Windows and Mac) and this records which applications and websites you are working on throughout the day. You can login to see a summary of this information, with pretty graphs, on the website. You can also tag applications and pages to help identify specific items or groups.

For example, here is a summary of the number of hours I spent using my laptop during February:

RescueTime data for Feb

The red is Email and the yellow is Yojimbo (which I use to keep track of notes, including keeping myself organised and draft blog posts/ideas etc). The grey is everything else.

As you can see the trend is awful, although exacerbated by the fact the the last week of the month was my last week at work (if it were a one-day manhatten then after a quiet start the innings accelerated nicely with some big slogging in the final overs) …

But, with the excuses out of the way, over 165 hours is much more time that I would have guessed I spent doing this sort of thing. Which is exactly the point – there is no need to guess (incorrectly) anymore. This tool helps put some hard numbers around it and allows you to be much more aware of the time you spend staring at a screen.

I suppose some people might be pleasantly surprised by the results they get, but I suspect that most (like me) will be prompted to aim for less.

You have no new messages

If you’re New Years resolution includes “less inbox”, you should check out this great presentation from Merlin Mann:

Inbox Zero: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=973149761529535925 (slides)

Getting your inbox under control is bloody hard and keeping on top of it is a constant battle.

Compared to the alternative, though, it’s worth the effort.

And it doesn’t necessarily mean spending your whole day on email.

In fact, the opposite…

One small tip which made a big difference for me was changing my email settings to only check for new messages every 15 minutes, and then later every hour.

Unlike some other changes which require you to turn your life upside down, this is completely easy to do right now (go on … I’ll wait here until you’re done).

Think of it as a way to slowly wean yourself off a dangerous addiction.

It’s interesting since I did this how often somebody will come to my desk or phone before I’ve actually cleared their message and say something like “I just sent you an email …”. Why? Just checking that I got it I suppose? Or, perhaps they are anxious that I haven’t responded yet.

When all you do all day is hang out with other crack addicts then it doesn’t seem so dangerous to take it yourself, I guess?

None of this is especially new. There are lots of good inbox management ideas out there. But, which ones are you actually using every day?

De-clutter

I see that Rod has picked his theme for 2008.

Here’s mine: less.

For starters …

There is plenty of scope here I reckon. And I’m interested in your suggestions.

If there are others you can contribute to this list feel free add your comment below.

Living in an Amish paradise

Here is a great Howard Rheingold article from the Wired Magazine archives about Amish in the US and their unique approach to using various technologies in their day-to-day lives:

Look who’s talking

I first read this back in the late ’90s (when, I admit, I was a bit of a Wired fanboy) and the criteria for what technology they adopt vs. shun has stuck in my head:

“Does it bring us together or draw us apart?”

You can agree or disagree with their view of the world, but I don’t think you can fault them for having a values-based way of making decisions about this sort of thing.

I like the idea of being in control of the technology you use rather than the other way around.

(Did I mention that I still haven’t upgraded to Leopard yet? ;-)

Think about this in terms of the technologies you use:

  • Are you in control of your TV?
  • Are you in control of your inbox?
  • Are you in control of your mobile phone?

If you answered ‘yes’ to that last question, do you take your phone with you to face-to-face meetings? And if so, do you answer it when it rings?

(By the way, before I get too self-righteous, I’ll be the first to admit that occasionally I do take my phone to meetings, as rude as that is, and my inbox consumes far too much of the time that could be better spent with family and friends.)

Is your use of all of these technologies mindful, or did you just fall into it?

What criteria do you use to decide when to start using a new technology?

Sometimes, I reckon, it’s good to step back and think about these things.

With this in mind, I wonder what the Amish make of blogs?

Like wearing a shirt with buttons, I suspect they would consider writing a blog much too “prideful”.

:-)