To Running Silent or Not

I’m finding I have to hunker down and seriously reduce the number of activities I’m engaging in to push past an important milestone, so my posting frequency will be (if you haven’t already noticed) drastically reduced. I was feeling very guilty about this, until I thought to myself that there was no reason to. My life is my own, right?

Well, not really. My life is now intertwined with dozens of other lives, and participating in the blogosphere has been very positive. I’m loathe to let go of it even for a short spell to again don the black clothes of the itinerant freelance codeslinger, but it’s what I need to do. I call it “hermit mode”, and last year I recognized that it was a kind of luxury to be able to shut out the world and focus exclusively on just a few things. As more of my friends start families, I see how their priorities change and how their schedules shift with the need to juggle many more balls.

I’ve never been particularly good at juggling, or perhaps more accurately I’ve never liked feeling the stress and fear of dropping the ball. My coping mechanism has been to run silent and deep, like a nuclear submarine on patrol hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean, alone with my work and shut out from the world. It’s during these times that I lose contact with the natural day, staying up later and later until I’m going to sleep at the crack dawn and waking up at noon. There’s just a couple of balls to juggle then, and there’s few distractions. It’s actually not so bad a life, if you have a few 24-hour supermarkets near you, and with the Internet you’re never completely isolated. Now that I think about it, since adopting the early waking schedule about a year ago (yes, I’m still doing it) I’ve lost touch with quite a few people that I used to talk to regularly in the wee hours of the morning, fellow hermits tapping greetings across the slumbering Internet.

I’m faced with a decision: I could manage my time better by applying any number of techniques I’ve used in the past, though frankly I don’t really want to do it. I’m tired. Or I could shut out the world and pour all my attention into the tasks that I want to get done.

  • The advantage of managing my time is that it’s more sustainable—if I accept that what I get done every day is going to be incremental and feel very small. I personally have little patience for incremental change, which is why I probably suck at it. The one exception to this is when I am actually observing incremental change in PEOPLE…that fascinates me, because each small change in a person’s behavior can indicate something much larger. I guess I am naturally curious about what makes people tick, not the number of ticks I can count.

  • The advantage of shutting out the world is that it is a more exciting commitment to action; kind of an adventure, really. I like getting ready for adventures, strategically planning my moves, getting everything ready for the big push. The problem is that it is an expensive contextual switch, on the order of planning a vacation without the relaxation, and it always burns me out at the end. This may, however, be the natural way I work by myself. It is a recurring pattern.

My gut reaction is that I should avoid going into hermit mode, but instead triage what I am focusing on. Blogging is going to have to go on the sideline for a bit, because there is a lot of other stuff that I need to get done for both the business and for my projects. I’m also considering my energy levels. Last week I tracked my hours using my excel timesheet and added two additional fields: energy level and what I ate. I had the feeling that I wasn’t doing the right work at peak times, so I wanted to see if there were any patterns at all to my day. I discovered that in the morning, after going to the gym, I was at peak alertness. I checked my email afterwards and followed up with people, and found that after a couple of hours of this my energy levels were again drained. Surprisingly, activities like washing the dishes seemed to recover some of that energy. What I ate didn’t seem to make as much of a difference as I thought, though the quantity might still have something to do with it (overly full = sleepy). My tentative conclusions:

  • I am getting eyestrain from looking at the screen, and this is making me dizzy. I can go maybe a couple of hours before the slight headache starts distracting me. I just ordered a larger monitor to alleviate this, hopefully it will get here tomorrow.

  • I need to pace my eating so it’s smaller amounts, more frequently. I hear this advice a lot from people who are optimizing their metabolism, and it’s high time I did the same. This is a whole new kind of process I will need to learn. Also, I should be drinking a lot more water. Remembering to do this in the winter time is more difficult, for some reason.

  • I need to shift the priority from communication to project, which is a reversal of my current values. I like to read email and respond to it, and I like chatting with people to see what they’re up to. For the past half year I’ve been pretty bad at replying to email in a timely manner because I’ve been busy with more projects, and I’ve felt guilty and inadequate. I will have to face up to the fact that I don’t have the bandwidth to spend 4 hours a day just writing back to people and exploring interesting opportunities. The “golden time” right after my workout should be devoted to project work, no exceptions. Email will have to wait to the end of the day, along with blogging. When I was responding to email, it was right after my workout. I’m still going to get eyestrain and dizziness after a few hours of staring at the computer screen (assuming the new larger one doesn’t alleviate this), but knowing this I can at least make sure my best hours are devoted to project work.

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p>I don’t know how this will work out, and I’ve already frittered away some prime “work time” by writing this post instead of doing project work, but at least I am laying the groundwork for future productivity this week.

In other news, the initial wave of people who have pre-ordered Emergent Task Planner Pads has dwindled, and the remaining people who haven’t yet ordered either have decided not to or have non-functioning email addresses. I am now going to start the process of collecting the names of people who have expressed interest in leftovers. I also need to figure out a better way of doing order fulfillment, as PayPal’s initially-promising merchant tools are cumbersome and painful to use. The biggest obstacle to just opening up a store is the ability to track inventory levels; PayPal does not offer this, and I do not want to accept money when I do not have product in stock. Someone must make a combined ordering, payment receiving, inventory-counting e-commerce front end with integrated postage and packing slip management. Eventually I will probably go with Amazon Fulfillment, but for now I want to continue to ship myself as I work out the best way to package these boxes. Until that time, there are so many shopping cart options out there that it’s going to take days to research them all. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.