Years ago I had a dream. I thought I could be this guy:
When I was in eighth grade I took a brave step toward making it reality. I tried out for the basketball team.
Then came the day.
I can still remember that day. Clearly. It’s the kind of day that involves little sleep and clammy hands.
I’ve had many since.
Immediately after school we all ran out to the court and lined up along the sideline. The usual bantering was on hold as we silently guessed who would stick around and who wouldn’t.
After what seemed like an hour, Coach picked up his clipboard and began to shout the names of those who’d be on the team. I so hoped to hear mine. And with each pause between names hope was revived.
Until he stopped. Did he … miss … mine?
My clammy hands knew that he hadn’t. I was a late bloomer, uncoordinated, and chunky. With a vertical leap of about 7.5 inches–prior to lunch–I’d not yet developed that skill set.
I didn’t make the cut.
If I were a part of that team I would’ve weighed it down. Literally. That which didn’t fit and didn’t help the team’s speed and effectiveness needed to be cut.
And for all involved–whether you’re the cutter or the cuttee–that’s not an easy process.
I’m a generalist. That means I find way too many things way too interesting. If you’re like me, and if you don’t make certain cuts in your own life, you can begin to feel scattered and weighed down.
Inefficiency grows as the overabundance of activities and information end up on your plate from an endless lineup of opportunities that serve up tasty and healthy portions.
In an era where we’ve access to volumes of electronically based information at our fingertips, by comparison, only a very small fraction of it can realistically be applied.
Look, the day that I wrote this, WordPress alone said that they posted the following:
756,726 new posts, 436,560 comments, & 163,648,985 words.
I read, search, take notes, save quotes, analyze articles, answer questionnaires, subscribe to newsletters, new blog posts, RSS feeds, save emails in categorized email folders, download eBooks and place them in my expanding, zeppelin-like folder on my desktop named “eBooks” (original, I know) and *inhale* I also save beautiful and information-packed sites in my alphabetized browser bookmarks that are now overflowing onto Delicious.com all, of course, for reading … someday.
So like thousands of digital squatters they just sit there and, and … and mock me … like the 99%-ers of Occupy Laptop: When are you gonna read me? Huh?? When you saved me you told me I was awesome! I was the Answer. Now I’m just camped here with all these other stupider files. And we aren’t moving. You’re gonna hafta DELETE us, man! But you won’t, cuz you’re scared! You’re such a waste!!
I was inundated, yet I was the one announcing, “Welcome! Come on in, pitch your tents!”
Perhaps I should up my meds.
Now, offline, subscribing to interests can occur just as easily. Saying “Yeah, sure” to joining groups, doing service work, attending meetings, and more, generally ends up in … doing … too … much.
The inherent feeling that’s so easily attached to all this “doing” is that you’re somehow accomplishing much in the name of learning, inspiration, helping and serving.
But the more difficult questions have to do with the “why” behind the busyness and the resulting items that are being avoided, pushed to the bottom of the list. As with most things, motives run deep and I needed to look at the “whys” under the surface.
Why am I distracting myself? Is it something I fear? Am I trying to grasp at something, to do more, that I think will allow me to feel better about myself? Am I compensating for something that’s lacking? Am I sabotaging myself or a particular situation?
Unless we want to turn this into a detailed, 10-thousand-plus word personality analysis, I’m leaving the exploration of these to another blog post.
Suffice it to say that the sheer amount of activities, people, obligations, etc. is inversely proportional to the amount of relevancy I can have in any of these areas.
The more on the plate, the more potential that lost time, scattered focus, and misdirected attention can flourish.
So, the more things, the less effective in any one area I am.
Others are feeling it too. There’s increasing hype with cutting back and minimizing. It’s practically reached fad status, as evidenced by social media and marketing guru, Chris Brogan‘s unfriending and unfollowing, as well as the second annual unfriend day that just passed.
Recently, I set aside a weekend and removed as many distractions as possible to focus on completing a long neglected project. No social media, no email, no events, no visits and phone only for emergencies, and my kids.
The resulting ability to drop into the zone for hours at a time was eye-opening. I saw more clearly the need to cut back on information and obligations.
So now, Occupy Laptop needs a shakeup. It’s time for the cut. But how?
It’s crucial to hold these items up to the light of your desires and goals. Simon Sinek eloquently states that, “If we value things that we are not prioritizing or prioritizing things we do not value as much, then perhaps it is time to realign our priorities.”
I had to ask, for each item or obligation, some pointed questions about what’s working and what’s not, and if it fits in my life at this point.
– Does it require too much time and attention, taking away from more important things at this point in my life?
– Does it move down the path that’s in line with my goals?
– Is it used as an excuse?
– Is it used as a distraction?
– Does it take away from my effectiveness in some area of my life?
– Does it help others?
– Will I read it, use it, benefit from it or have someone else benefit from it?
– Does it bring me joy?
– Does it lead me toward what I value?
– Does it lead me toward what I believe?
Difficult? Absolutely. I’ve a tendency to “go with the flow” so it’s a stretch to refine, draw a line and close doors on items that I like and may miss, or think will keep me ahead of the curve, or will help me realize some degree of success.
Let me add that these decisions can be temporary. So it doesn’t need to cause too great of a concern. You can go back. Although, once the feeling of lightness and increased focus is regained, I’ve found I seldom do.
The Better Fit
Ultimately, I unsubscribed from about twenty sites and feeds. I’ve kept the most applicable half-dozen. I cut obligations such as meetings and service work in half, for the time being. My focus is more intensely redirected on business providing for a greater potential to excel, and experience the joy that accompanies that. Some doors had to close online and off. I didn’t need to keep track of so many keys.
And, as with basketball–or the lack thereof–after coming to terms with it, I found that I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I don’t even recall how our team did that season. I belonged somewhere else, doing something else. Art and music, for example. And, well, being a weightlifter and shot putter just fit me better, and the better fit allowed me to excel.
If you find yourself unable to give a particular event, group, team, class, business, client, job, goal, the amount of time and focus that’s needed, if it doesn’t feel like the right fit, hold it up to the light. Make the cut. Unfriend. Unfollow.