Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Getting High for a Start

I’ve been waking earlier. My 4.30 am alarm gives me five or six hours of sleep, depending when I log off, but these days I beat the thing to it. (Maybe something reset my bio clocks.) Anyway, I usually don’t go back to sleep once I’m awake (no particular reason), so I would pick up my ever-handy phone and check Facebook or my email. There’s little activity that time of day, though, and within two weeks, I was going straight to my RSS feed reader (I use Opera Mini’s) where there was always some new and interesting post. Before I’d know it, two or three hours would race by, day would break and I could get on.

But I wasn’t really feeling it. I mean, yes, I loved my feeds (I did choose them, after all, and find them delightful), but something about it all niggled at me. I didn't just want to return to my former rhythms, either, since I still got enough sleep by retiring earlier.

Along came a BFO ("blinding flash of the obvious"*): here was prime free time, and the best I could do with it was read RSS? I could have kicked myself.

Instead, I made a decision. The next day I was up 3.30 am (waking, fortunately for me, is generally an event, not a process), grabbed my textbooks (got exams next year), made myself a cup of coffee (what better to wake up to?), and hit the dining table for the next couple hours.

The high from that two-hour study session was unexpected, lasting well into afternoon. Even more, it's proved consistent: I ride into each day on a wave of pure energy. I enjoyed my new schedule so much, I even reset both my log-off time and wake-up alarm an hour earlier just to keep it up. (I've already decided to go on after the exams, substituting study with, say, writing.)

I've had to wonder, though: why the high? Obviously the regular—and more effective—study is cause for satisfaction, and I do enjoy acquiring knowledge. But does that fully explain it? Perhaps a good part comes simply from starting my day with a personal victory: two hours in and I’ve already achieved something meaningful. I think that sense of accomplishment—knowing I'm fulfilling my own commitments to myself from the get-go—is what makes me feel ready to take anything on.

Now there's a kick starter.

P.S. What would you spend 2 free morning hours on? A penny for your thoughts below.

*"BFO" is courtesy David Allen, author "Getting Things Done" (GTD)

Monday, 22 November 2010

More Consumption

Yes, I’m still thinking about consumption.

Every single day, we’re bombarded with data in amounts that are nothing short of massive. We watch movies and listen to music, we converse via email and IM, we network over Facebook and Twitter. And we have the equipment to engage the onslaught, too: from the now-traditional TVs and radios and PCs to a whole new, and ever-increasing, range of mobile devices. It’s a new world, baby, and we’re armed to the teeth and ready to take it on.

Or are we, really? Our equipment is great for helping us gather data, and some of it does a pretty good job of organising it. But that’s hardly enough. Information isn’t much use until we actually use it. Before that, though, we have to somehow make sense of it: we have to process it. Now what equipment do we have for that?

There’s just one I know of – and it’s right between our ears. Unfortunately, processing takes time, and the thing sucks at multitasking.

The solution, then? Well, I think one way is to better organise what comes in so processing is easier. Still, I don’t see how we won’t have to reduce the input itself at some point, before we drown in sheer data.

Or to use the consumption metaphor, before we are constipated.

Question: how do you handle your incoming information?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

I, Consumer

My relationship with Facebook has evolved over the years. Initially I was indifferent, then grudgingly gave it a chance; soon I was caught up in its allure. Then we became like old friends, separable for long periods without rancour on either side, yet enjoying each other’s company when we could.

Still, I have my misgivings: Facebook, I find, calls to a certain part of me -- the part labelled “consumer” -- with an effectiveness I find worrying.

Not that being called “consumer” is anything new: possibly hundreds of marketing departments worldwide have labelled me that since babyhood. What’s new is my own increasing awareness of my consumptive abilities, thanks to a host of media, Facebook (and increasingly, Twitter) being among the most able. Worse, these creations have grown in their ability to make my uptake ever more intuitive.

You know what I mean: the endless stream of games and photos and trend topics, the “Like” and “Retweet” buttons that spare me the need to type a single word to make myself heard, the amazingly ingenious means by which they see to it that I needn’t miss a single shot of my regular fix of feeds -- and how can I leave out the all the wonderful apps that set them free from my PC by launching it into my email and phone?

But while I consume all this media, that initial fact -- that these are creations -- niggles at me. I don’t know for certain, but I could bet my job Mark Zucks and the Twitter guys weren’t on any social networks when the ideas hit them. And even on the very off chance they were, I’ll bet two jobs they didn’t develop them there.

I’ll tell you why I think that’s a big deal. I want to own the world, you see. (I’m sure you do too... You don’t? Forgive me, then: wrong number.) But I strongly believe the world belongs not to the creative, but to creators: not to those who can make things happen, but to those who do make things happen. Except that making things happen -- creating -- is the direct antithesis of consumption. And especially of mindless consumption, which I could almost swear is the particular variety Mark and co. would have me indulge in.

So thanks, guys, but no thanks. Sure, I’ll keep consuming, but not at the expense of some creating of my own. Like this post.