Life Streaming: Resetting Your Digital Map for Efficiency & Success

Life Streaming: Resetting Your Digital Map for Efficiency & Success


We’ve got too much information streaming at us. Via phones, computers, TVs, billboards, radios, newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, email… On and on…  Our problem is a filtering problem. I’m going to suggest some radical changes in your media and information consumption, all of which I have put into place in my life. I’m not 100% successful at staying fully streamlined, but each day I try to redirect my life and my activity (what I’m doing with my life) back towards the goals that are important to ME and not necessarily the marketers and newsmakers of the world.

First *MY* simplified goals:

  • Get my work-for-hire done
  • Exercise 5 – 6 times a week
  • Stand at my desk rather than sit for 30% of the time
  • Use free time to relax, stretch, write, sing, dance, enjoy life
  • Build creative momentum through continued practice
  • Publish, perform, show up in the world as a creative force
  • Be a 100%-engaged dad to my kids

And the streams that are calling for my attention and how I tamed them:

TV News. I was crushed (as most of us were, by the horrific footage and aftermath of 911. As I recovered from that CNN-watching binge, I realised how damaged I felt inside. The visual images kept repeating themselves, even while I was trying to go to sleep, and probably in my dreams. I came to a resolve: If I never “watched” the news, I would not have the moving pictures, the movies, running around in my head. I quit all tv news and I’ve never looked back.

SmartPhones. This one is more recent. I have recently dropped Facebook from my digital profile. (Personally, not professionally.) And in removing the app from my phone, I am back to using my phone for three things. 1. a phone; 2. an email device; 3. a texting device. PERIOD. I have a few games, and I’ve gone through “gaming periods” but no more. I could never delete Doodle Jump (my first iPhone game crush) or Frenzic (my brain-training game of choice) but I don’t play them. I even mentioned to my daughter about giving her my iPhone 5 and going back to a 3s we have in a drawer, but I probably won’t due to the sim-card incompatibility. But I’m happy pushing my phone back into the box of being a phone and not a fascinating tricorder communication, never lonely, device.

Email. Relentless and demanding, email is one of the most insidious time sinks. But how much of your email is critical? My guess is you have about five people you need to respond to in an on-call basis. (mine: kids, 3 main clients) Other than that, email is about 80% distraction. Sure, I like all those ZDNET emails reminding me of APPLE, MICROSOFT, and GOOGLE updates, but they aren’t really critical path. That’s why switching to G-Mail as my main email client was a good idea for me. Now I have three tabs of importance. And the messages that fall into the PROMOTIONAL tab often get deleted without even reading beyond the title or sender. And if I unsubscribed from all of them, tomorrow I would probably not miss much.

Facebook. Ah my love to love, hate to have, and must have social app. I’m taking 99 days off any personal posting or new feed reading. It’s worked wonders in the first 2.5 weeks. AMAZING how easy it was to use my phone to check my primary inputs (email, text, voicemail) and then click over to Facebook and see what updates or messages I might have there. 15 minutes later I’d look up and realise I just fell into Alice’s rabbit hole. Okay, so I can’t get rid of my Facebook profile all together. I have a few clients who use Facebook extensively for business. I still have to monitor, post, and respond on their behalf.

Twitter. Get Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. Your life will be forever changed. I have ONE column of CRITICAL follows. Everyone else goes into sub-critical streams. And then I monitor and listen for any mentions of my three main Twitter accounts. That’s it, FOUR columns and everything else, the firehose-ish stream of tweets blazing by, I don’t even keep that on-screen. I can scroll over at any time to see what I’m missing, but it’s a blaze of … time wasting mish mash. And the stream is getting worse with spammers and scammers. Tweetdeck get’s Twitter under control for me. I never miss a tweet of one of my Trust Network members. Everyone else, well, I might see your message. Oh, and forget about DMs on Twitter. They are dead and full of TrueTwit, auto-responders “Thanks for the follow, now download my eBook” and spammers. Don’t DM me on Twitter, I’ll never see it.

Online News and Information. Another rabbit hole of distraction, that can appear to be a critical task. Yes, you need to be informed about changes in your business environment, and world events DO affect all of us, and even politics are of great value and importance. I agree to all those conditions. BUT… How much of your JOB, today, or your LIFE today is affected by the latest sensational tsunami building off the coast of some 3rd-world country? Or the latest poll numbers for the upcoming elections. You may want to know this stuff, but it’s more for entertainment or distraction, for the most part, rather than helping your streamline your life and boost your productivity. I check in on about three sites when I’m looking for a blip of news. (Huffington Post – though I’m getting annoyed and tired of the sex/celebrity click bait that has infected the home page, NYTimes, Comedy Central – it’s often better than the news for giving me current updates on what’s happening in the world of US politics and geo-political struggles.) As I mentioned, these are my distractions. I try to limit my time checking-in on this content. But I do look at the “news” from time to time.

Pick Your Brain Sessions. Everyone wants to get together and get your ideas on their idea. It’s a nice exchange of information. But sometimes, if it’s only one way (meaning they only want to pull information from you and not provide any value or feedback on your projects) and it’s really just a time suck. Friends are different. If we’re close friends, I am 100% available to support your ventures, dreams, and hopes. That’s what we do for each other. But if your a colleague and we’ve talked twice in the last few years, and you’re suddenly wanting to take me to coffee to brainstorm… Well, I might. But for me, the equation is clear. You want something for nothing, or the cost of a cup of coffee. That’s okay. But only if I have the time and welcome the distraction. Make the offer for breakfast tacos, you’re buying, and we’re much more likely to make an exchange (food for info) that also benefits me. I’m happy to do it. But it has to fit with my priorities and my schedule.

Information Gathering and Research. Leave yourself a crumbtrail when you do your primary research. If you are doing some Googling for a client, setup a Delicious tag and keep a trail of the great articles you find. You might even be able to give this link to your client and jump-start the conversation as you are giving them your presentation about the “go-forward strategy.” But just imaging you can Google it again, is a waste of time. YOU ARE THE FILTER, filter the search results once and make a road map for any colleagues or clients who might want to follow. You can do this in a spreadsheet or an Evernote file, but do it. Don’t do primary research every single time you want to refresh your current knowledge of an industry that isn’t your primary focus.

By pulling back from your infofeeds and boosting the activities that are important to you, you can free up massive amounts of energy and creative time. That’s what I believe, but I’m only 12 or so years into the experiment. (grin) Good luck, be creative, and get your work done. Then get outside and get on with the other kind of life, the life away from screens or advertisements of any kind.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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