More Attention, Fewer Things

I’ve been away – did you miss me? My absence was, as I posted the other day, the annual golf trip during which I assess my tolerance for pain and suffering both on the golf course and off. I try very hard not to check email nor to dip my toe into the river of digital content from which I drink daily. Fortunately, I have a bunch of distractions provided by my buddies.  

Today I fully plugged in, having returned to work. Zipping through email was relatively easy – I had already answered the critical ones during the trip and now it was just a matter of newsletters and such. My RSS stream is another matter entirely. There are thousands of articles here and there is no way I can skim them all much less read them. In the process of doing so, however, I thought of something that might be useful to you all as well.

Not everything is critical.  Not everything is important.  Most of it can be ignored safely.  I’ve found that the really important information out there shows up in multiple places and it’s pretty easy to tell that you might want to  check something out when you see it on a second or third stream.    The word itself – “stream” is important.  We’re land animals – we don’t live in a stream.  Lots of experts are beginning to tell us only to check email a few times a day – times when we can afford to task switch and be fully present.

I like this from Oliver Burkeman:

The bigger point here isn’t really about email in particular; it’s about the ever greater “boundarylessness” of work. When anyone can be contacted at any time of day, in any location; when the costs in time and effort of sending a message to a colleague, client or underling dwindle to nothing; when we’re confronted by an effectively infinite amount of information we could consume, or tasks we could perform, if only time were infinite too …

I just deleted a thousand articles in a couple of my stream topics without even looking.  It was the equivalent of recycling unread, old magazines I know I’ll never read nor care if I miss.  All of us need to give more attention to fewer things and stop making ourselves crazy with nits.  Who’s with me?


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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

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