Thursday, 8 July 2010

Only disconnect ...

Every year about this time of year there's at least one post or newspaper article about someone going to spend the northern summer in a beach shack with a composting toilet and - gasp! - no internet - and how they're going to spend a fulfilling summer reading, painting, going skinny dipping or whatever.

And it's an attractive idea. But nowadays, when airlines like you to check in online, and you need to call people, email people, and use other booking sites you can't really disconnect. You need a travel computer, and just possibly a 3G modem though so far I've resisted that. (A week in the depths of rural Greece later this year may change my view on this however ...)

However, last week when I was signed off recuperating from having my wisdom teeth out I had a revelation.

To explain, a lot of my work involves knowing about things, essentially technological evangelism to work out what our strategy is or should be and then getting people with the right technical skills to do the work to make it so. This means I read a lot - blog posts, press releases, vendor presentations, email, twitter. And it would be terribly easy to get overwhelmed by this great big booming confusion. And of course 90% is shit, but the key is knowing which 90% to discard.

Anyway, when I was signed off, I still kept up with things, and would spend about 90 minutes going through the rss feeds, email and twitter stuff, perhaps an hour or so in the morning, and another thirty minutes before dinner. And I covered all the stuff I would normally cover, even though I didn't do all the follow up work I would normally do

The rest of the time I read books, ie real paper books, not the electronic sort, watched a really interesting series on planetary astronomy I hadn't got round to watching, stacked the wood fire and fed the cat.

And that taught me a lesson. Structure your day. In a world where apparently over 30% of young women check facebook before having a pee in the morning the key point is discipline.

Yes you need to do these things, but you also need to do other things. And that includes making time for yourself. So as of now I have a walk across campus to pick up my mail, pick up my discounted copy of the Australian, and then come back to my office and sit down and read the paper while I eat lunch.

I don't go and stare at a screen, which I must admit was my terribly slack habit previously. I've also given up listening to work related podcasts on my ipod over lunch.

Simple things, but it gives me some fresh air and time away from the screen.

While I've always been disciplined - for example I never answer my phone if I'm in a meeting with someone - what I learned is that things will always wait, and that if one plans one's working day you can get everything done and more. And if something really won't wait, someone will tell you.

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