Lately I have been prioritizing, examining how I spend my time, and thinking about what matters and what really doesn't. I have to admit- I have been spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on the things that really don't matter, and not enough on the things that do.
The number one wasteful activity is- you probably guessed it- the Internet.
Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, forums, Pinterest... all these things I do to connect, learn, and be inspired. Please don't get me wrong- I love to be inspired, to network, and to learn. But somewhere along the way I overdid it. I began to feel- somewhat subconsciously- that I needed all of these online activities in order to succeed- that if I didn't keep up with people on social networking sites, or if I didn't follow certain blogs, I would fail. What rubbish. Here is the truth: there is a such thing as "inspiration overload". For me, the side effects include comparing myself to others and loss of self-confidence, and ultimately I am un-inspired completely. Another truth: social networks can be valuable tools for business and personal growth when used correctly, but for the most part other avenues are going to pay off more for me. The fact is, the Facebook world and Twitter-verse will not miss me if I cut back on the time I spend there. My family definitely will.
The purpose of all this is not to announce that I closing accounts or giving up the Internet or anything like that. For some, a haitus is a perfect way to re-think priorities and detox from the tech world. At this time that is not where I'm at. Rather, I am trimming down my rss reader to the blogs that really encourage and inspire me in an active way. I'm tracking my online time and making an effort to really separate it from other parts of my life. No answering business emails and checking Twitter while I'm at the park with Seth or out on a date with my husband.
I'm examining which activities are an active engagement in my life and business- adding to then in some way and moving me forward, and which are simply sucking time and leaving me frustrated and discontent.
Here are a few things that, it turns out, don't really matter:
-Subscribing to every cool wedding blog, and every awesome photographer's blog, and every amazing design blog. Ooh-ing and ahh-ing over lovely imagery is fun, but I have found that it does nothing for my work. I want my art to be my own, and when I allow myself to be bombarded with everyone elses, it not only steals precious time, but it dilutes my own vision and misconstrues how I see my own work. My solution is bookmarking these sites instead, and visiting them when I want a quick dose of pretty or to search a specific topic.
-What so-and-so Tweeted yesterday, or an hour ago. Sure, it may have been interesting- possibly even useful- but I will not really miss out on anything if I never see it. The Internet moves far too fast and has far too much to ever keep up with it all. I am limiting my time spent looking back in social network history and "catching up".
-Following. Following links, which lead to other links. Following people. etc. etc. I'm using RescueTime to set up a timer system to track and limit my random Internet browsing time each day. Because the nature of the beast is to sweep you away and suddenly you've spend hours online when you were just going to "check something". Been there, done that.
Then there are the things that don't matter quite as much I sometimes think they do:
-Email. It is rarely as urgent as I make it it out to be. Checking it a hundred times a day is rather obsessive. It wastes time, distracts me, and causes me to randomly interject work into times where something else should be the focus.
-Views and comments on my site, blogs, Facebook page, etc. It's good to check these, but once again, obsessing over them is unnecessary and unproductive.
-Being the perfect housekeeper, and devoting time to projects that are unproductive or do not move me toward where I want to be. Stephanie Beaty wrote about this on The Creative Mama today and shared a few wonderful links.
Here is one final truth- the most important one, really: I am going somewhere (you are too!). I have a vision, goals, dreams, passions, and determination. If something is holding me back from those mentally, or stealing time from them or from my family (which is, always, my top priority), then it needs to be cut from my life. It has no place in my world. In the end, the difference between getting to where I want to be and being who I want to be- or not- could come down to how I spent my time.
Check back soon for the better half of this topic: what really matters.
Tell me, friends: what doesn't really matter in your life, that you would like to cut back on to make room for more important things?