The Book of No

I’ve been taking the Scott Hanselman talk to heart – you’ve watched it by now, right, after I just about begged you to in a previous post?

No? Ah, well, that’s ok, too.

What I took away from it is some tools and strategies for managing my online reading. For example, I no longer try to take time out of the middle of the day to read articles on my blog feed. Rather, I take a few off-minutes while my computer is crunching video and skim through the Google Reader list, clicking on my “Read Later” bookmark every once in a while. All of those articles will be compiled through Instapaper and delivered to my Kindle email (which is accessible on my iPhone).

I know, you’re expecting me to say And then I read them all later. Nope, haven’t found the time to do that. But at least all of the things I don’t have time to read are now in one place!

FOMO and mo and mo…

courtesy Dave Stokes, Flickr CC
Can we add a 13-18, please? That's all I really need, honest...

However, the Fear of Missing Out is slowly fading. I realize that it is impossible to read everything, and I even feel a little guilty when I tell other people about this blog. Usually people smile regretfully and say something like “Oh, I don’t have time to read blogs, sorry.” Fair enough, I can certainly understand that. Frankly, I don’t think there’s anything in this blog so amazingly urgent (not even Scott Hanselman) that somebody needs to read it right now.

Instead, they can read it later. Or even better: they’ll read it when they need to. Which may be never, in fact, and isn’t it a good thing that they didn’t waste their time reading a blog that they didn’t have any use for? I suspect that may be why I’m so enamored of Open Space events. There’s no wasted time. We don’t take breaks for lunch, we don’t waste time trying to fill a class slot with material that was exhausted an hour ago, we don’t cut off subjects or conversations that need more time. Every minute of an Open Space is spent doing what you want to do.

But that’s an open space. Is it possible to have an “Open Life”? A life spent doing only what you are passionate about?

Probably. I know people who are committed to that ideal, who are leaving homes and jobs and jumping into the unknown simply because where they are is not where they want to be. That’s a subject for another post, though.

I made that leap a while back, and I’m dealing with a different kind of problem: TMSTD.

Too Much Stuff To Do

This short visit here in Madison WI is a good example. During the first few days of my trip, I had four concurrent goals:

  • Spend time recovering and resting from the huge convention Memorial Day weekend
  • Help my friend Natasha move all of her stuff out of her apartment and clean it
  • Catch up/make progress on my “day job” projects for clients
  • Spend quality time with my four children, two grandchildren, two mothers, three sisters, two nephews, two nieces, and my Dad. Oh, and a few close friends I’ve not caught up with in a while

That was supposed to be Tuesday through Thursday. What’s funny is, I did most of it. I got things done, clients are pretty happy, I’ve spent time with everyone but one sister, Natasha’s apartment is bare. As for the “rest and recovery”…well, that’s not so much. But I have managed to get a couple of good night’s sleep, which has been nice.

I’m completely convinced that I’m doing it wrong. Remember the reward for a job well done? Another job. By accomplishing all that stuff in those two days, I’ve set the bar for myself, my family, my clients, my friends, just a little higher. There’s that creeping feeling of “Oh, well, if you could do that, you could certainly do just a little more.

No. No, actually, I can’t. Or at least, I don’t want to. The one danger of the whole “live your passion – work for yourself – do what you love” thing is that there is no real “off switch.” It’s very, very hard to know when to stop. Passion is not a good regulator.

Practice Saying No

Courtesy of fotogail (Flickr CC)Watching myself for signs of burnout (and seeing them) is a much better way to know when to stop. In a way, the drive towards self-improvement is a great ally: saying “no” becomes the new goal, the pinnacle of achievement we aspire to. Every new task or project or outing that is declined becomes a little gold star, with the feeling of satisfaction that comes with inching closer to that final goal.

And what is that goal? Boredom? No, I don’t think so. Something more along the lines of relaxation. I don’t want to have nothing to do; I just don’t want to feel like I have to be in a hurry to do it. I want to dance, not scramble, as I go through these myriad parts of my life. I think that keeping a “Book of No” list might be a good start to that. I’ll let you know how it looks next week.

Meanwhile, to help you decide what you should or shouldn’t say “no” to, might I suggest Leo Babauta’s Riverflow Method. He hid it in a post about online reading…but it’s a very powerful metaphor and method.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *