Personal Scalability

Digital Me Creation and consumption of all this social media is time consuming. I am someone who uses Twitter regularly, who uses Facebook and blogs and videoblogs and everything else. I’m making multiple types of media every single day, and this is on top of my day job, which involves creating a big professional conference, which entails hundreds of emails and a half dozen or more phone meetings a day.

When I talk to businesses about using social media and social networking tools, I’ll tell you that most of them hear the premise behind Twitter and Facebook and videoblogging and immediately tell me that it’s a waste of time. And yet, it’s all these tools that have brought me into a community of amazing people, brilliant minds, and forward-thinking business types, so there’s certainly some amount of “there” there (as my boss often says). But this all brings to bear a question about personal scalability: how can I keep this all up? What will give? I’ve been giving this some thought.

Side note: Some of this thinking stemmed from Julien Smith ordering me to re-read Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour work Week, which I dutifully did last Friday. I highly recommend it. It’s also a current favorite of friend, David Eckoff.

Strategy Behind the Madness

First off, I’m using all these social media tools for two reasons: first, so that I can learn and understand them and incorporate them into my own personal strategy for building conversations and community. Second, so that I can teach YOU how to use these tools in different ways and show you how to build them into drivers for your business. To that end, I can’t exactly walk away from social media technology, even though this does consume a lot of time. However, there are ways one can think about these tools that help you use them more wisely.

Personal Communication

Here are some thoughts and lessons learned on communicating that have helped me lately:

  • Close loops fast- “Loops” means open conversation threads, such as a multi-email volley on where to go for lunch. If it goes past 4 messages (two from each side), call. Phones make that faster.
  • Make email brief- One subject per mail. One short, tight message per mail. Make it as close to a “closing loops” email as you can.
  • Encourage SMS and Email over Voicemail- Until I can replace my voicemail with Jott, it’s easier for me to read your message. I’ve changed my voice mail greeting to reflect this.
  • Cut back on IM- For whatever reason, Instant Messager almost always nets me people who are bored at work and just wanted to say hi. I dunno why, but that’s the main constituent reaching out to me in IM. Only use IM if you’re working on something closely with someone (wherein IM becomes so cool and useful).
  • Throttle back email – This was/is the hardest. Ferriss, in his book, says we’re obsessive about email. He’s totally right. I learned just how obsessive this past weekend. But if I do this one thing better, I will get back more hours in my day. I have a theory here. I think the more I answer email, the bigger the pile. This will become a whole post in and of itself, but just know that there’s something to this.

Media Consumption

First thing I did happened a few weeks back when I culled a bit of my Twitter stream. I found about 280 people who weren’t really contributing much to the conversation. Now, if I were truly merciless, I would cull back even further, because when I look at a fairly large contingent of my high-traffic Twitter friends, their average stream is essentially a chat room patter that is fun to read, but not especially enriching. I don’t do this, however, because i consider reading Twitter to be part of a “water cooler” moment, and so I just remind myself to take a few minutes, engage, and then get back out.

I just cut my blog feed reading back about 50 or more feeds, so that my count right now is just under 100. That’s partly because I have great human aggregators in that 96, like Robert Scoble, who often finds me the good stuff, and it’s also because Twitter has given me my dose of random blogs to read, so I can keep my list focused on my favorites.

With audio podcasts and videoblogs, I still make time for both of these media types, and just try to overlay other tasks with them where appropriate.

Media Creation

I try to have a fresh new blog post out every day. And if I’m really motivated, I’ll put up two or three as things land in my head. Why? Partly because I’m wired that way. Partly because I’m tempting you to think about these things more than once a day. I blog fairly fast and simply, so I don’t see this as eating up a lot of my day. Further, my blog is my platform, where you’ve come to be part of a community of conversations, and to that end, I like to keep it vibrant by encouraging YOU to come give it your best.

My videoblog is infrequent. My Facebook efforts are still tentative. I like the platform, but don’t use it to its fullest. I Twitter incessantly, and think it’s a great tool for reaching people and adding texture and flavor to your other media. Think of it as the Director’s Commentary on your other work. (Really think about that one a moment, because I feel I’ve stumbled into something by saying that). And the other media I create becomes more and more like syndication back to the mother ship of ideas which is my site, so I do that when I think there’s a value in crossing modes.

What Has to Give

I’ve started learning where my pressure points are with regards to time. I learned that I have to use Twitter differently (drive more meaningful conversation, help promote other people’s great work, and talk occasionally about what I’m doing, while keeping my eye out for gems in the clutter). This is tricky, because I want to stay a conversationalist and not a bullhorn, but I have to revisit the use here.

I have to cut back on email. I’m trying to follow Ferriss’s ideas here, but they’re tough. I’m learning how not to look at my BlackBerry all day. I’m learning how to use filters and tagging in my mail to at least prioritize what gets responded to when. (For instance, I’ve built all my bacn filters, so I’m only going through that stuff every three days instead of every time I get new mail.

I’m learning how to structure meetings and conversations such that people drive right towards their point, and explain to me as quickly as possible how I can be helpful. Not because I’m trying to be curt or rude. I’m just trying to discover if the conversation is of any value for either of us before we have it. (Too much here to go into, but maybe in another post).

Similar but different, I’m learning how to smell just what someone needs ahead of time sometimes, and direct them to the source of what they need for self-service. It’s really easy to accidentally loop yourself into the conversation chain. Be deathly wary of this and stop doing it.

Areas for Improvement

I need to get better at email management. I need to learn more about automating various tasks that seem scriptable (I’m not that deep-level, but I hope to ask people to help me). I need to discover ways to better select which conferences and events might be interesting versus ones where I might build business relationships.

Biggest one: I need to say NO better.

If you want one giant take-away from this rambling post’s attempt to tell you about how you might get back some of your time to learn how to be ready for bigger and better things, the one giant takeaway is this: Say no better. That’s it. If you do that better, you’ll learn how to have space and breadth and bandwidth to handle bigger things, more challenging projects, more rewarding work. That’s the goal. That’s where I need to grow.

Your Thoughts?

How are you coping with your building chaos? What are you doing to find ways to accept the larger and larger workload and challenges to your time? Share with the team, and let’s rip this open in discussions. How would you improve your own scalability, or mine, or others who come here to connect? What’s your take?

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  • http://www.digiscrapinfo.com Connie Bensen

    Are you saying less is more? Personally I’m cutting back from 2 jobs to one. Why did I have two? umm the 2nd found me. But I love it & and am giving up the first one of 8 yrs. Something has to give. And I’m going to cut back to working about 50 hrs a week instead of 70. (as I sit here at midnite typing…). I’m looking for that balance too. Keep the thoughts coming!

  • http://www.digiscrapinfo.com Connie Bensen

    Are you saying less is more? Personally I’m cutting back from 2 jobs to one. Why did I have two? umm the 2nd found me. But I love it & and am giving up the first one of 8 yrs. Something has to give. And I’m going to cut back to working about 50 hrs a week instead of 70. (as I sit here at midnite typing…). I’m looking for that balance too. Keep the thoughts coming!

  • http://www.hawaiistories.com/infinity NEENZ: “INFINITYPRO”

    It’s funny that you blogged about this today as I sit in front of the screen, overwhelmed by choice. I don’t want to give any of this up because it’s the future, I need to and have to learn this stuff and how to incorporate it into “something.”

    I find myself, randomly twittering, randomly posting in forums, just consuming loads of time that I really don’t have.

    I too juggle a day job, two young children, etc. And while they’re all supportive of my interests and passions, I know that something must “give.”

    The solution for me is to come up with a “business plan” for my life, you know? I won’t be so structured with respect to the children and my relationship, but I have to figure out, weed out, water and cultivate.

    Always an inspiration Mr. Chris Brogan!

    In my observance, you’ve been true to what you’ve written, being selective…but then again, I’ve only been following you for a few months.

    On my way to digg, del.icio.us, Dot, Ma.rker, and Techno.

  • http://fleeptuque.com/ Fleep Tuque

    I hate the term bacn with a red hot passion, but I have to admit that the phrase caused me to think about that category of email and prompted me to do the same – I created some filters and now I just check all my Facebook notices or what-have-you when I get the chance rather than throughout the day. I don’t know if it is saving me _time_ per se, but it certainly seems to be helping me concentrate on work when I’m working and on being social/networking when that’s my focus.

    I’ve also begun to experiment with multiple profiles for multiple purposes and audiences. While at first that might seem contrary to good time management (more = less??), again, categorizing contacts and profiles by area of interest or social network is helping me stay focused on each specific area at a time. I found that beyond the time-suck problem, the other problem that emerged from the social media overload was a sense of feeling _constantly scattered_. Work email, note from friend, project update, Facebook zombie bite, work phone call, twitter, jump to website, back to work email. Brain can’t cope!

    Segmenting out “this is my work email address, this is my personal email address, this is my project email address” has helped me tremendously. They can all feed into a central email client, and with filters, I can focus on each area with greater mental concentration than when everyone was emailing the same account. This applies not just for email, but also for Twitter, Second Life, etc.

    Look forward to reading others’ suggestions!

  • http://www.hawaiistories.com/infinity NEENZ: “INFINITYPRO”

    It’s funny that you blogged about this today as I sit in front of the screen, overwhelmed by choice. I don’t want to give any of this up because it’s the future, I need to and have to learn this stuff and how to incorporate it into “something.”

    I find myself, randomly twittering, randomly posting in forums, just consuming loads of time that I really don’t have.

    I too juggle a day job, two young children, etc. And while they’re all supportive of my interests and passions, I know that something must “give.”

    The solution for me is to come up with a “business plan” for my life, you know? I won’t be so structured with respect to the children and my relationship, but I have to figure out, weed out, water and cultivate.

    Always an inspiration Mr. Chris Brogan!

    In my observance, you’ve been true to what you’ve written, being selective…but then again, I’ve only been following you for a few months.

    On my way to digg, del.icio.us, Dot, Ma.rker, and Techno.

  • http://twitter.com/fleep Fleep Tuque

    I hate the term bacn with a red hot passion, but I have to admit that the phrase caused me to think about that category of email and prompted me to do the same – I created some filters and now I just check all my Facebook notices or what-have-you when I get the chance rather than throughout the day. I don’t know if it is saving me _time_ per se, but it certainly seems to be helping me concentrate on work when I’m working and on being social/networking when that’s my focus.

    I’ve also begun to experiment with multiple profiles for multiple purposes and audiences. While at first that might seem contrary to good time management (more = less??), again, categorizing contacts and profiles by area of interest or social network is helping me stay focused on each specific area at a time. I found that beyond the time-suck problem, the other problem that emerged from the social media overload was a sense of feeling _constantly scattered_. Work email, note from friend, project update, Facebook zombie bite, work phone call, twitter, jump to website, back to work email. Brain can’t cope!

    Segmenting out “this is my work email address, this is my personal email address, this is my project email address” has helped me tremendously. They can all feed into a central email client, and with filters, I can focus on each area with greater mental concentration than when everyone was emailing the same account. This applies not just for email, but also for Twitter, Second Life, etc.

    Look forward to reading others’ suggestions!

  • http://fleeptuque.com/ Fleep Tuque

    Er, someone dm’d me. Yes, I have multiple Twitter and Second Life accounts. No, I’m not trying to deceive anyone or hide anything!

    To take Second Life as an example, the interface does not give me the tools to tell everyone “Hey, I’m giving a presentation to 100 people right now, please don’t IM me!” I had to create an account with no friends so I could be sure nothing inappropriate would pop up on the screen during work. Then I discovered it was awfully nice to do content creation on that account because I could get my work done without being bombarded by IMs and group notices and etc, I got the work done faster. More accounts = less time

    I expect this method will have diminishing returns at a certain point, particularly if there aren’t centralizing applications to tie multiple “personalities” together for easier management, but organizing all the social media I am using is helping me cope with both the time and concentration issues that arise from too much info overload.

  • http://twitter.com/fleep Fleep Tuque

    Er, someone dm’d me. Yes, I have multiple Twitter and Second Life accounts. No, I’m not trying to deceive anyone or hide anything!

    To take Second Life as an example, the interface does not give me the tools to tell everyone “Hey, I’m giving a presentation to 100 people right now, please don’t IM me!” I had to create an account with no friends so I could be sure nothing inappropriate would pop up on the screen during work. Then I discovered it was awfully nice to do content creation on that account because I could get my work done without being bombarded by IMs and group notices and etc, I got the work done faster. More accounts = less time

    I expect this method will have diminishing returns at a certain point, particularly if there aren’t centralizing applications to tie multiple “personalities” together for easier management, but organizing all the social media I am using is helping me cope with both the time and concentration issues that arise from too much info overload.

  • http://www.ds4design.com Fred Schechter H.B.

    hmm yet another person in the same techpool I see. Chris I’ve only been reading you for 3 days (sue me I’m new). Everything I’ve seen says we’re more or less in the same boat (I’m a tad behind).

    I too wonder how the email automation works.
    Additionally my big confusion has been CRM software in addition.

    I’m still very behind the ball (I have 3 full sites to get up and moving, and so far,,, kind of one).

    Also, I’ve done the facebook/twitter/pownce thing, but really haven’t felt it does much for me (I’d rather spend my time kayaking my google reader river of news).

    Anyway, thanks and keep up the great blogging (I’m sure I’m way behind in reading all you’ve been writing).

    I look forward to hearing more about email automation (also maybe I’ll get off my butt and re-read the 4 hour work week again too)
    cheers!
    -Fred Schechter H.B.

  • http://www.ds4design.com Fred Schechter H.B.

    hmm yet another person in the same techpool I see. Chris I’ve only been reading you for 3 days (sue me I’m new). Everything I’ve seen says we’re more or less in the same boat (I’m a tad behind).

    I too wonder how the email automation works.
    Additionally my big confusion has been CRM software in addition.

    I’m still very behind the ball (I have 3 full sites to get up and moving, and so far,,, kind of one).

    Also, I’ve done the facebook/twitter/pownce thing, but really haven’t felt it does much for me (I’d rather spend my time kayaking my google reader river of news).

    Anyway, thanks and keep up the great blogging (I’m sure I’m way behind in reading all you’ve been writing).

    I look forward to hearing more about email automation (also maybe I’ll get off my butt and re-read the 4 hour work week again too)
    cheers!
    -Fred Schechter H.B.

  • http://www.loudmouthman.com/contact Nicholas Butler

    Well thats another book on my List then. Id seen an interview Robert Scoble did with Tim Feriss and it went on my someday maybe list. I just got bumped.

    Id agree with cutting back on email barrages and too much email. I have taken time with all my clients to explain to them that I dont reply to emails I have received if they dont need a reply.
    I also explain that I dont receive work via email. Orders for hardware and software certainly but not lists or job notes. Those belong on Phone calls and the tools I provide them to register work.

    Getting Things Done has given me a few great tools I have implemented and some others I know I should but just cant implement without failing the loops.

    In fact I will save time here by not fully commenting.
    Nik

  • http://www.loudmouthman.com/contact Nicholas Butler

    Well thats another book on my List then. Id seen an interview Robert Scoble did with Tim Feriss and it went on my someday maybe list. I just got bumped.

    Id agree with cutting back on email barrages and too much email. I have taken time with all my clients to explain to them that I dont reply to emails I have received if they dont need a reply.
    I also explain that I dont receive work via email. Orders for hardware and software certainly but not lists or job notes. Those belong on Phone calls and the tools I provide them to register work.

    Getting Things Done has given me a few great tools I have implemented and some others I know I should but just cant implement without failing the loops.

    In fact I will save time here by not fully commenting.
    Nik

  • http://trufflesbybc.com Keri

    I have just over 100 feeds on my reader now, and find it is a bit overwhelming with everything else that is out there so I guess the time has come to do some weeding… but I’ll admit this, I think I’m coming here more than anywhere because I’m gleaning more info from you and all your great lists of what is out there and the comments from others and what they are doing with it than anything else.

    So, about the bacn filters… spell it out for me with some examples. I’m too tired to figure all of this out for myself tonight. It’s my month on jury duty here in the midwest.

    And your Twitters may be incessant? But again, for the most part I see them as being focused and helpful – getting out the information and promotion of whatever. So now I need to learn to utilize it for promotion of our little business around here.

  • http://trufflesbybc.com Keri

    I have just over 100 feeds on my reader now, and find it is a bit overwhelming with everything else that is out there so I guess the time has come to do some weeding… but I’ll admit this, I think I’m coming here more than anywhere because I’m gleaning more info from you and all your great lists of what is out there and the comments from others and what they are doing with it than anything else.

    So, about the bacn filters… spell it out for me with some examples. I’m too tired to figure all of this out for myself tonight. It’s my month on jury duty here in the midwest.

    And your Twitters may be incessant? But again, for the most part I see them as being focused and helpful – getting out the information and promotion of whatever. So now I need to learn to utilize it for promotion of our little business around here.

  • http://www.ldpodcast.com Whitney

    The more on your plate, the more it comes down to triage. Prioritizing as best you can, and concentrating on one thing until it’s done.

    While planning a conference, as I am learning from Podcamp Philly, pulling all the threads together makes this easily an overwhelming proposition.
    Sometimes you just have to go for the value add and let some other stuff lay for a bit, or simply decide that it would’ve been nice, but it’s not gonna happen.

    Closing loops is really important, and I agree with the “if it’s gonna take more than a paragraph, pick up the phone” philosophy. It eliminates misunderstandings, and a quick phone call is a better personal connection than a long, complicated email that can confuse.

    I check in with twitter online only, so I can “catch up” with folks, and I don’t use IM at all. Someone can always get me by my cell or SMS, or gmail chat, for that matter. IM is simply too distracting for me with my ADHD issues.

    My husband jokes I need a 12 step program for volunteers and he’s probably right. No is the most powerful word in the english language, and I know I need to be better at deploying it.

    The definition of stress for me is when my brain is screaming “NO!” and my mouth somehow says “Sure, no problem.” I need to stop that.

  • http://www.ldpodcast.com Whitney

    The more on your plate, the more it comes down to triage. Prioritizing as best you can, and concentrating on one thing until it’s done.

    While planning a conference, as I am learning from Podcamp Philly, pulling all the threads together makes this easily an overwhelming proposition.
    Sometimes you just have to go for the value add and let some other stuff lay for a bit, or simply decide that it would’ve been nice, but it’s not gonna happen.

    Closing loops is really important, and I agree with the “if it’s gonna take more than a paragraph, pick up the phone” philosophy. It eliminates misunderstandings, and a quick phone call is a better personal connection than a long, complicated email that can confuse.

    I check in with twitter online only, so I can “catch up” with folks, and I don’t use IM at all. Someone can always get me by my cell or SMS, or gmail chat, for that matter. IM is simply too distracting for me with my ADHD issues.

    My husband jokes I need a 12 step program for volunteers and he’s probably right. No is the most powerful word in the english language, and I know I need to be better at deploying it.

    The definition of stress for me is when my brain is screaming “NO!” and my mouth somehow says “Sure, no problem.” I need to stop that.

  • Adriana

    I am not so media involved but I think I “Should” be…But before jumping into the pool is good to known the reaction of the ones that have been swimming for a long Time…
    Twitter is also the coffee break of my day…
    I stop there and I can see great ideas flying, sorry I cannot contribute more…
    BUT the great quote for me was NEED TO SAY NO BETTER…I already got yell at by all the persons close to me…even my boss… that I am not able to do that…

  • Adriana

    I am not so media involved but I think I “Should” be…But before jumping into the pool is good to known the reaction of the ones that have been swimming for a long Time…
    Twitter is also the coffee break of my day…
    I stop there and I can see great ideas flying, sorry I cannot contribute more…
    BUT the great quote for me was NEED TO SAY NO BETTER…I already got yell at by all the persons close to me…even my boss… that I am not able to do that…

  • http://specialization.isforinsects.com Seth Woodworth

    I’m really curious about Twitter being the director’s commentary of your other media. I’ve been fascinated about how dvd commentaries could, and have been used for some time. I really need to get into Twitter.

  • http://specialization.isforinsects.com Seth Woodworth

    I’m really curious about Twitter being the director’s commentary of your other media. I’ve been fascinated about how dvd commentaries could, and have been used for some time. I really need to get into Twitter.

  • http://www.schablog.com Scott Schablow

    Wow, talk about timing. I was trying NOT to venture under the RSS waterfall today. There’s too much of my own work to do and it will be there tomorrow. But then I somehow (I think via Twitter) landed on this post. I’ve been dealing with the overload factor and have come to realize that I must compartmentalize my time. I’m checking things less often, scanning Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for the ‘good stuff’ not idle chatter, and trying not to comment unless I have a unique perspective to offer (probably just violated that one here). By limiting my access I tend to make each moment account for more, instead of lingering and wasting time. Also, now when I add a feed or friend, I try and delete the least useful one on the list.

  • http://www.schablog.com Scott Schablow

    Wow, talk about timing. I was trying NOT to venture under the RSS waterfall today. There’s too much of my own work to do and it will be there tomorrow. But then I somehow (I think via Twitter) landed on this post. I’ve been dealing with the overload factor and have come to realize that I must compartmentalize my time. I’m checking things less often, scanning Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for the ‘good stuff’ not idle chatter, and trying not to comment unless I have a unique perspective to offer (probably just violated that one here). By limiting my access I tend to make each moment account for more, instead of lingering and wasting time. Also, now when I add a feed or friend, I try and delete the least useful one on the list.

  • http://www.michellelamar.com michelle lamar

    Dude…how is it that you always seem to WRITE about the very TOPICS that I am thinking about, pondering, obsessing over? How can this be? Vulcan mind meld? Can you read keyboards? It’s spooky. You always know and you say it much better than me. Damn you.

  • http://www.michellelamar.com michelle lamar

    Dude…how is it that you always seem to WRITE about the very TOPICS that I am thinking about, pondering, obsessing over? How can this be? Vulcan mind meld? Can you read keyboards? It’s spooky. You always know and you say it much better than me. Damn you.

  • http://nothingbutsocnet.blogspot.com/ Zena

    As we all struggle with less sleep and more screen time, your thoughts/lessons learned (as so many have already stated) are timely and very valuable.

    Your twitter insight – Director’s Commentary…how very accurate! You nailed it – that’s exactly how I feel about the golden nuggets I get from the likes of Scoble and Rubel. Hyper-brief snacklets that are apropos for the medium.

    Using each medium to your specific needs, finding that blend that best suits you…good stuff!

  • http://nothingbutsocnet.blogspot.com/ Zena

    As we all struggle with less sleep and more screen time, your thoughts/lessons learned (as so many have already stated) are timely and very valuable.

    Your twitter insight – Director’s Commentary…how very accurate! You nailed it – that’s exactly how I feel about the golden nuggets I get from the likes of Scoble and Rubel. Hyper-brief snacklets that are apropos for the medium.

    Using each medium to your specific needs, finding that blend that best suits you…good stuff!

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  • http://reckonwordwide.com Chris Weige

    Email is easily my number one stressor. Thanks for addressing the issue, Chris. Looking forward to your thoughts.

    @Fleep Great suggestions! Thanks.

  • http://reckonwordwide.com Chris Weige

    Email is easily my number one stressor. Thanks for addressing the issue, Chris. Looking forward to your thoughts.

    @Fleep Great suggestions! Thanks.

  • http://www.youlay.pl Ula

    About email.
    I’m sure you heard about this, but maybe didn’t pay attention to this video: http://www.43folders.com/2007/07/25/merlins-inbox-zero-talk/
    Be prepared – it’s 1h long, but it is worth (don’t read slides instead – not much help without speaker – intentionaly)

  • http://www.youlay.pl Ula

    About email.
    I’m sure you heard about this, but maybe didn’t pay attention to this video: http://www.43folders.com/2007/07/25/merlins-inbox-zero-talk/
    Be prepared – it’s 1h long, but it is worth (don’t read slides instead – not much help without speaker – intentionaly)

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