Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Avoiding electronic overload

So I have an iPhone, an iPad, an iPod, a MacBook Pro, and an iMac, plus my wife has almost all the same. I have Dropbox, email, Skype, Messenger, Evernote and so forth. I'm on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and a few other social networking sites. I subscribe to 200 or so blogs. I write two blogs almost daily. So how do I avoid going crazy? How do I control all these devices and programs that demand my attention? Where do I go to get relief from the deluge of information?

Hmm. These are all pretty good questions. Maybe I need to go on an electronic diet? Cut my usage by 1/3 or 1/2 and reduce the stress of keeping up with the electronic treadmill? Wait, I don't really have to take that kind of drastic action. I don't really need electronic gastric bypass surgery. I just need some simple rules to follow. So here are the rules:

Rule No. One: All electronic devices have an on/off button. Turn them off.

Looking at a smartphone or an iPad can become compulsive. Just remember that they do have an off switch and you can turn them off. Make sure you leave them in a regular spot, one that you will only access during certain times of the day. Turn the devices on only when there is a reason to do so.

Rule No. Two: Do not use electronic devices and social media as entertainment.

If you look at your use of electronic devices as work, you will less likely to make a choice to use them instead of real entertainment involving interaction with real people. Turn them off during times when family and friends are around. Don't sit and watch the social media streams. Use social media to communicate but not as a substitute for real communication.

Rule No. Three: Employ readers or aggregators as much as possible.

If you have a phone, use caller ID to screen all your calls. Only take the calls when and where you want to. The same goes with all of the social media, blogs and other websites. Use readers to screen all the messages and only read or open those that really have some interest for you. Reading 200 blog posts a day could take all my time. A reader, such as Google Reader or Feedly, cuts that time down to a few minutes a day.

Rule No. Four: Avoid the trap of substituting social media for real work.

If you catch yourself reading Facebook all the time or browsing the Internet for interesting sites, realize that neither of these activities could in anyway be classified as work unless someone is paying you to do one or both. All of these rules come down to self discipline. Recognizing that you only have a very short time each day to do productive work and spending real effort and real time doing work rather than entertainment.

Rule No. Five: Stay focused.

Get into a routine with your genealogy. Keep "Things to do" lists and follow them assiduously. Prioritize you tasks. Use the electronic devices as tools to accomplish what you are trying to do and ignore the distractions. I have a huge variety of interests and I am involved in things like working with my local Boy Scout Troop as Unit Committee Chairman and Advancement Chairman. I also have several businesses to operate. All of these take time and have priority over my own genealogy. But by prioritizing activities many times during the day, I can continue to make progress on genealogy projects even when other responsibilities come first.

Obviously, I don't have a solution for everything. My recent major surgery is a good example. All of my planning and prioritizing went out the window and I had to slow down and do only those things I was capable of doing. As a matter of fact, that is still the case and may now be permanent. But if you think about what you are doing and ask yourself if what you are doing is highest on your priority list then you may be able to sort out your activities and make progress in genealogy even when you are super busy with other concerns.

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