Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blogging and Getting Things Done

I don't know where I heard it; it was probably on one of those silly radio talk show segments on The Hawk (103.9) out of Woodstock. They were chatting about Facebook, making inane, obvious remarks. But one stood out for me. Somebody said that most people on Facebook need to get a job, the implication being that those with jobs simply didn't have the time or energy to quiz their friends about child movie stars, poke them or send them idiotic videos from YouTube.

For whatever reason, it stuck. Maybe it was because I was actually a case in point. I've been using Facebook far less since taking on a new job. No time, no energy, no interest in quizzes, pokes, dumb videos, faux gifts, flowers, and "guess where I was last night" entries and summons. Not that I think Facebook is without merit. It's just less useful when you're fully engaged in - shall I say it? - the real world.

More recently, I've spent a little more non-work-related computer time on LinkedIn, a more business-oriented networking site. I imagine that many who use this network do so for job hunting. I'm not one of them, but it is useful to have just business connections and to explore the network for potentially useful introductions. It's useful even to re-connect with business acquaintances that you haven't seen for a few years. In general, it's wise not to let lines in your network die out.

But the truth is that whatever spare time I have these days is being managed more carefully and selectively. I'm using my HTC 6800, for example, to read books in Microsoft Reader format, the most important of which is David Allen's Getting Things Done. In fact, being able to read a few pages while riding the elevator, taking a bio break, waiting in the car while doing errands with family members, waiting in long lines, even at half time while watching a Toronto Raptors basketball game...these are opportunities now to do something useful, something stealing time to play on Facebook doesn't accomplish.

In fact, if you've read David Allen's book, you'll recognize the importance of context. His recommendation is that your next action lists should be context-sensitive. In other words, when you have a few moments to do items on your lists, you shouldn't have to fumble about finding things that are appropriate given your physical context - with a phone, in the car, taking a flight, commuting on a train, at home, at work, with a colleague or family member or friend in a one-on-one meeting. When in those very specific contexts, your next action list should provide you only the to dos which match the context.

This little gem is becoming a keystone for my own management system. But it does mean that a context such as "@computer" means I'm looking at next action items that do not include "do stupid things on Facebook"! Instead, I find myself looking at a list on things that are truly important, things that will help me take the next step towards achieving a goal.

Now, if I'm at home and taking a look at my "@home" list of to do items, it's also highly unlikely that I'll be dealing with Facebook. But I may have highlighted an @home next action that includes something like "contact my sister about selling her home". In her case, the best way I can contact her and respect her time away from work is through Facebook messaging. That is useful.

Unfortunately, I haven't done much blogging recently on either this technical blog or my personal blog. But doing so is, arguably, a worthy use of spare time. So as thoughts about topics strike me during the day, I may just find myself adding an @home next action item of "blog about Getting Things Done" or "blog about Facebook nonsense" or even "blog about reading books with your HTC 6800". Who knows, I may even stoop to an @home entry of "blog about blogging" :)

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