Reflection on the Infomagical Challenge

Today concluded the last day of the 5-Day Infomagical Challenge I mentioned in my last post.  I am truly almost sad it is done because it was an interesting week of looking consciously at what I’m doing and asking myself why vs just doing it.   But let me back up to Day 4.

Day 4: Have a 7-Minute Conversation on a meaningful topic — a verbal conversation

During the podcast, someone pointed out that we are so addicted to technology as a way of communicating that we have stopped having those verbal conversations that sorta go where they go.  When a researcher asked why people preferred text or IM over a verbal conversation, they cited the control they have over what they send to people.  They can edit it before they send it to make it sound like they want to sound.  There are no awkward pauses or missteps in how you are communication like may happen in person.  You can get to control how you come across to the other person.  The problem is that by not having verbal conversations, you also miss out on creating real connections.  Because sometimes the connections come from the awkward.

I couldn’t help but think of SB with this message.  Not because he is a huge texter, but quite the contrary, he isn’t.  He would much rather you call him than send long texts back and forth.  While we may exchange text messages here and there, for any real communication, a phone call happens instead.  Most of the time, I’ve found, a 5-minute phone call can replace drawn out texts trying to get or give the same information over the span of an hour.

Because here is the other thing, texts and IMs are distractions to tasks.  Even as I am writing this, I had to stop myself from flipping over to Skype to reply to someone.  Instead I saw who skyped me,  then didn’t let it interrupt me. (My morning has been filled with emergencies requiring my immediate attention, that is why I did allow myself to look because it may have been a legitimate interruption.)  Texts and IMs and how they present on our phone and computers make us think they need immediate attention.  They don’t.

But back to the 7-minute conversation about something meaningful.  This one wasn’t too hard for me.  I process things I’ve read and seen best verbally anyway.  I prefer verbal because it’s faster for me even though I do type fast. But what it has done is made me realize there are times where I stray from the verbal.  And it makes me also realize how in the attempt to avoid the awkward and all through doing all communication on-line, we create new issues and mainly it occurs because we are not connecting with people are human but as just some words on the screen.

Day 5: Write A Note To Self

Today is talking about priority.  Gregory McKeown said this:

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.”

I almost laughed aloud at this statement.  I have spent most of my IT career and Project Management career saying simply, there can only be one #1 priority.  To try to have more than one is to slow down your ability to get any of them down quickly.  Why? Because everyone is distracted by trying to get many things done at the same time.   This was his point as well.  When he hears a Mayor of a city say he has 12 priorities, he cringes because he knows none will get done.  Priority by its very definition means “a thing that is regarded as more important than another” — not many things that are regarded are more important that other things.  It’s one thing.

Not every piece of information that comes our way can be consumed.  To try to do all of that is to focus on the wrong thing.  As he said, you don’t want your tombstone to read “but he read all of his emails”.  The host of the podcast laughed and said that her’s would read “but she bookmarked a lot of articles to “read later” but never was able to read them later”.

So my note to self is one I’ve been using all week:

Does doing this or reading this get me to where I want to go?

In other words, does reading this or viewing this online make me a better photographer? A better IT person? A better manager? A better Mom? A better partner? Healthier? Happier? Smarter?

If the answer is no, I’m moving along.

Overall, here are my reflections for the week and how this has made me do some things differently when it comes to information online:

  • I’m spending less time on Facebook and Twitter.  And when I am on there and notice a lot of crap that doesn’t fit, I am either unfollowing, unfriending, or unliking things to make them go away.  I learned yesterday (because Facebook changed it again) that to not get everyone’s Facebook activities to show up on your feed, add them to the “Acquaintances” list.  You will still get things they post; just not all the other stuff.  I did that after I found myself wondering “what’s that” on some articles people were “liking”.  They were distracting me, so I got rid of them.
  • I am focusing more on the stuff that is truly important to me.  I am reading more photography stuff.  I’m skipping over a bunch of the political stuff (for example) that would piss me off and distract me from what I do really care about – and take me down a rabbit hole of more research.
  • I’m putting my phone down more.  Last night, I sat in the car while DJ was in a taekwondo class and listened to an audiobook.  That was it.  I didn’t need anything more.  I went and got lunch this week with my phone in my pocket but not looking at stuff on it.  I even shut down the usual tabs I keep open because they were ways I was self-interrupting.
  • I am focusing more on one thing at a time at work.  I knocked out all of my status reports yesterday in an hour because that’s all I did. No Skype or IMs. No email. No phone calls.  It was great having that done and out of the way.  Usually these take me almost all day Friday because of how many interruptions I allow myself.
  • I don’t miss getting notifications on my phone.  Phone calls and text messages are the only two I have enabled yet.  (Kids will text emergencies which is the only reason why I left that on there.)  I love not having all of my apps staring at me each time I unlock my phone.  I put them in one of three folders: entertainment, utilities, site apps.  That’s it.
  • When I’m bored, I ask myself what I really want to be doing.  Is mindlessly browsing the internet what I really want to be doing?  I’ve shut the laptop and put the phone down.
  • I sat with DJ last night and introduced her to a show that I love.  Phone was in my pocket not in my hand.  Without the distraction, I remembered why I love this show.  And sharing it with DJ was great because of her reaction to it – we bonded instead of both of us just sitting in the same room on our own devices with the TV in the background.

Two notes I’ve jotted down that were said in the various podcasts that sum up things nicely:

“Be conscious, not compulsive”

“Let information and technology serve you, not rule you”

In case you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of this experiment.  I do recommend you go give it a try.  They are going to restart the challenge on Monday.  You can sign up.  Just go to notetoselfradio.org — Infomagical is the  challenge name.  Go give it a try.  See what you learn.

What do you think?