Work less, do more

2009 looks to be an interesting year. I’m aware that’s a pretty glib and easy statement and one I’m somewhat resistant to write but taking extended breaks over the Xmas / New Year period, as I’ve done twice in a row now, means looking at years as discrete chunks works rather well for me at the moment.

Last year seemed to be about discovery. We, by which I mean people like me who mess about with social media stuff, found loads of tools to do things with and tried them out. There wasn’t much of a system in place, just a constant search for the shiny. It was great if a little discombobulating and by the end of it I was, to put it mildly, in a bit of a tizz.

This year I think things will settle down a bit. The tools are in place. We understand mostly what they can and can’t do well. And most importantly the fundamental notions of social media – sharing, experimenting, failing without consequence – are spreading. People and organisations that a couple of years ago were clueless about these things are embracing them. To bring a farming metaphor in, we’ve got the fields, the fertilizer and the equipment. Now we need to plant the seeds and harvest.

In other words, it’s time to get organised and it’s time for things to get really interesting.

Since I landed in New Zealand four weeks ago I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Much more than I suspected I would and it hasn’t always been easy. The implications of not stopping for 12 months really hit home and I realised I really need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I won’t go into the details of the process, for that would be too long and tedious, but after some long nights scribbling on notepads and, more importantly, sitting and thinking, I think I’ve got something I can use.

In short, I want to spend less time earning money this year and more time doing interesting things.

That doesn’t mean I want to earn less. It means I want to be more efficient about it. Which, oddly, shouldn’t be a problem. Most money earning gigs tend to be pretty straight forward. Someone asks you for a specific outcome and you deliver that accordingly. And when I looked at the jobs I did last year they didn’t really amount to a whole lot of time but certainly provided enough income. As long as I can keep the work coming in, which I think I can, earning a living shouldn’t be a problem.

So what was I doing when I wasn’t working? Faffing, mostly. And thinking that I was too busy to do stuff. Often I was, because I didn’t have any systems. Hopefully I have systems now and the drive to use them (not wanting to be as fucked as I was last year is a great motivator!) Turns out Getting Things Done is actually a rather useful productivity system and not just another wanky self help thing, and it appears to be pretty scalable so you don’t have to buy into a massively complex system in order for it to work. You just need have a place to dump ideas and to review that dump regularly. I think I can manage that. And as an further incentive I just plunked £45 down for a copy of Things to serve as my dumping place. Since I’m pretty-much desk-free at the moment software was the only way to go and this one works for me. Nice and simple and integrates well with my existing systems, such as they are. In other words I can add stuff from my phone. No more Twittering Notes to Self into the void.

And once that’s all working, what then?

Then it’s time for the Interesting Stuff. Like I said at the beginning, this year is going to see a lot of consolidation. As usual there will be projects and ideas but more of them will actually result in tangible results. Some of them might even be wonderful and legendary. And I need to be involved with them. One of the most depressing things about my current situation is every time I hear of something really interesting that someone wants to do my first reaction is “I’d love to be involved but I’m too busy and can’t commit.” This is, to put it bluntly, not fucking good enough. With all my years of experience in this stuff there are no excuses for my not being able to contribute. More critically, this is the sort of thing that got me where I am today and as more and more people get the tools and knowhow I’m in danger of being left behind. Just as it’s getting interesting. This cannot be allowed to happen.

So here’s where I ask a favour. It’s not a big one. Just be sure that should I say that I’m too busy to get involved in something I think is really interesting (as opposed to the many things that are cool but not that interesting to me), ask me if I’m sure about that. Remind me about this priorities thing. Ask me how the GTD is going. Make sure I see that I’m off track. Force me to stop for a bit.

I’ll be forever in your debt.

Well, not forever. I’ll buy you a pint at least.

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2 Responses to Work less, do more

  1. Trialling “Things” at the moment, looks good so far, has an iPhone app also which synch’s up FYI.

  2. Tom Martin says:

    Totally agree about having a system, I’ve used probably like 5 different apps for trying to save, notes, ideas and reminders. Last week I decided to buy Backpack and use that for storing everything, I’m using it a bit like a wiki and putting important to-dos on my homepage, which is my actual homepage.