Wednesday, 10 June 2009

How I Spend My Time

A really great question this about Time Spent month on the Learning Circuits Blog … okay so I'm the one who writes the question.  Please contribute your answers.  Each person's answer (like mine in this post) individually might not be that interesting, but collectively I think there's something pretty interesting.  For example, I can already see that TV is losing out to lots of other activities.

My Typical Day

Like a lot of the people answering, there is no such thing as a typical day.  I'm involved in a bunch of different things all at the same time.  How my time gets distributed really depends on the day.  But here are some elements of how I spend my time:

  • I spend the vast majority of my time talking with people about particular business needs, market opportunities, technology opportunities, product specifications, social media marketing, researching related information, position of products in the market, talking to partners, VCs, etc., generally helping businesses figure out how they can be successful.
  • I spend about 2-3 hours each week writing blog posts.  This can either be early morning hours or weekends in the morning.  For example, I'm writing this on Sunday morning.  I used to get up on Sunday mornings and read the newspaper from cover to cover.  Now I get up on Sunday mornings and open up my blog editing tool and begin to write.  I also will take the Sunday morning time to run through my reader to "catch up."      
  • At any time during the week, I save interesting topics for blog posts into a big electronic pile whenever I encounter them.  So, if I happen to see something that sparks – oh, I should look at that – I save it into the pile and take a look at it when I have time to think and write about it.
  • I also will save interesting questions that I've encountered because of particular work with clients.  So a lot of my blog posts directly or indirectly relate to clients or to start-ups that I'm working on.
  • I spend maybe an hour or two each week on various outside topics such as Professional Speaking, Communities and Networks, that is related to public topic hubs for Browse My Stuff.  This doesn't pay back in monetary terms, but it definitely pays back in learning and networking terms.
  • I spend 0-60 minutes each day catching up on topics being discussed via Twitter, different LinkedIn groups, blogs, other discussion groups, etc.  I used to open at lunch time.  Now I will jump onto these sources.
  • I have roughly one 30-minute conversation per day with someone new who I've met through blogging, LinkedIn, or some other virtual networking activity.  In most cases, this is directly related to a particular presentation, project, start-up, etc. I've never really felt great about connecting with people without somewhat having a reason.  But connecting around something that I'm working on is fantastic.
  • Closely related to the above, I probably average 15 minutes per day on LinkedIn searching for people.

When you add all the time I spend with social media, it's quite a bit.  However, when I do my  Top-Down Strategy to look at how I spend my time, what information sources to consume, etc. … my time is pretty well aligned with what makes sense.

Finding the Time

One of the main reasons I wanted to ask this question is explained by Jenise in her response to the question:

I have heard Dr. Tony Karrer speak in person at my local ASTD chapter. We all sat dumbfounded to hear how much he knows, calculating in our brains how much time he must spend online, on the WWW, each day. He has a family, so we bluntly asked him… “Do you spend time with your family?” He does, but we left the meeting wondering how he balances his work and his life.

The reaction Jenise had is quite common after presentations and it boils down to:

I'm already too busy, how the heck can I also do all of what you are telling me about?

So part of the question were the specific questions:

  • How did you find time for all the relatively newer things like reading blogs, twitter, social networks, etc.?
  • What are you doing less of today than you were 3-5 years ago?

I've worked a bit with Stedman Graham and something he said really sticks with me:

We all have 24 hours in a day. What makes us different is how we choose to spend it.

In looking at my response above and what I described in Top-Down Strategy, I've made some very specific choices about where I spend my time – and a lot of it is replacement.

  • I consume far less mainstream media – I don't watch the evening news, I skim the Sunday paper (3 hours has turned into 15 minutes), I'm watching less TV – but that's more a function of my kids keeping me busy.  I've replace the Radio with listening to podcasts.
  • I've cut out / down trade publications.  I used to get Information Week, InfoWorld, CIO, Training, etc.  I still even get a few of these.  But, as I've described in Stop Reading - Skim Dive Skim and Information Radar I find that the vast majority of these publications trail what bloggers are talking about and they have to be superficial in comparison.  So, I've tuned them out and I've instead spent more time with very specific sources.
  • While I still buy lots of books, I read a book from cover to cover far less often than I did 5 years ago.  Actually, I'm trying to remember the last time I read a book cover to cover.  Instead, I'm using my skimming behavior on books.  Good news is that with Safari and Kindle and things like that … pretty soon this will be a more natural integration.
  • I've cut down on local networking events.  I used to go to a lot of these and even served on boards.  I still go to a few and I organize a local CTO Forum.  But I've cut down and I use Pre-Networking to make sure it's going to be a good use of time.  One thing that I've realized is that rather than committing 4 hours to an evening meeting to meet 5 random people to have a few minutes of conversation pales in comparison to the value of spending an hour on LinkedIn findings interesting people related to specific topics and scheduling 30 minute conversations with them.
  • I've similarly cut down on conferences.  I still like to go in order to get together with people I already know.  And by presenting, it helps me build new connections.  Still there's a question in my mind of the value of doing a conference vs. the value of spending time doing something like Learn Trends.  Right now, I'm doing more virtual stuff and less in-person.


Part of the question behind the question is whether the replacement of these things makes life better or worse.  I don't have any more time than I had 5 years ago.  And some people would see replacing 3 hours with the Sunday paper with writing this blog post as a bad thing.  I personally don't see it that way, but I'm sure it's open to debate.  Right now, mentally, I think I'm talking to you.  Yes, you.  Well actually not you, but a theoretical model in my head of who you are.  But still it feels like a kind of conversation. 

It also continually puts me in a better learning mode – I'm not sitting passively consuming.  I'm active.  I'm writing.  I'm conversing.

But probably the best part of all of this has been the greatly increased interaction with other people to discuss targeted questions.  Reaching out through LinkedIn to have 30 minute conversations is a beautiful thing.  Discussing things via blog comments or blog posts is beautiful.  Getting online together via Learn Trends is great.

By the way, I still spend lots of time playing volleyball, taking my kids to all their events, having a generally great life here in sunny Southern California.  In fact, once I'm done with this post, my kids and I will be heading to the beach for volleyball and some fun.

Life is better with social media.

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