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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How I Spend My Time

A really great question this about Time Spent month on the Learning Circuits Blog … okay so I'm the one who writes the question.  Please contribute your answers.  Each person's answer (like mine in this post) individually might not be that interesting, but collectively I think there's something pretty interesting.  For example, I can already see that TV is losing out to lots of other activities.

My Typical Day

Like a lot of the people answering, there is no such thing as a typical day.  I'm involved in a bunch of different things all at the same time.  How my time gets distributed really depends on the day.  But here are some elements of how I spend my time:

  • I spend the vast majority of my time talking with people about particular business needs, market opportunities, technology opportunities, product specifications, social media marketing, researching related information, position of products in the market, talking to partners, VCs, etc., generally helping businesses figure out how they can be successful.
  • I spend about 2-3 hours each week writing blog posts.  This can either be early morning hours or weekends in the morning.  For example, I'm writing this on Sunday morning.  I used to get up on Sunday mornings and read the newspaper from cover to cover.  Now I get up on Sunday mornings and open up my blog editing tool and begin to write.  I also will take the Sunday morning time to run through my reader to "catch up."      
  • At any time during the week, I save interesting topics for blog posts into a big electronic pile whenever I encounter them.  So, if I happen to see something that sparks – oh, I should look at that – I save it into the pile and take a look at it when I have time to think and write about it.
  • I also will save interesting questions that I've encountered because of particular work with clients.  So a lot of my blog posts directly or indirectly relate to clients or to start-ups that I'm working on.
  • I spend maybe an hour or two each week on various outside topics such as Professional Speaking, Communities and Networks, that is related to public topic hubs for Browse My Stuff.  This doesn't pay back in monetary terms, but it definitely pays back in learning and networking terms.
  • I spend 0-60 minutes each day catching up on topics being discussed via Twitter, different LinkedIn groups, blogs, other discussion groups, etc.  I used to open at lunch time.  Now I will jump onto these sources.
  • I have roughly one 30-minute conversation per day with someone new who I've met through blogging, LinkedIn, or some other virtual networking activity.  In most cases, this is directly related to a particular presentation, project, start-up, etc. I've never really felt great about connecting with people without somewhat having a reason.  But connecting around something that I'm working on is fantastic.
  • Closely related to the above, I probably average 15 minutes per day on LinkedIn searching for people.

When you add all the time I spend with social media, it's quite a bit.  However, when I do my  Top-Down Strategy to look at how I spend my time, what information sources to consume, etc. … my time is pretty well aligned with what makes sense.

Finding the Time

One of the main reasons I wanted to ask this question is explained by Jenise in her response to the question:

I have heard Dr. Tony Karrer speak in person at my local ASTD chapter. We all sat dumbfounded to hear how much he knows, calculating in our brains how much time he must spend online, on the WWW, each day. He has a family, so we bluntly asked him… “Do you spend time with your family?” He does, but we left the meeting wondering how he balances his work and his life.

The reaction Jenise had is quite common after presentations and it boils down to:

I'm already too busy, how the heck can I also do all of what you are telling me about?

So part of the question were the specific questions:

  • How did you find time for all the relatively newer things like reading blogs, twitter, social networks, etc.?
  • What are you doing less of today than you were 3-5 years ago?

I've worked a bit with Stedman Graham and something he said really sticks with me:

We all have 24 hours in a day. What makes us different is how we choose to spend it.

In looking at my response above and what I described in Top-Down Strategy, I've made some very specific choices about where I spend my time – and a lot of it is replacement.

  • I consume far less mainstream media – I don't watch the evening news, I skim the Sunday paper (3 hours has turned into 15 minutes), I'm watching less TV – but that's more a function of my kids keeping me busy.  I've replace the Radio with listening to podcasts.
  • I've cut out / down trade publications.  I used to get Information Week, InfoWorld, CIO, Training, etc.  I still even get a few of these.  But, as I've described in Stop Reading - Skim Dive Skim and Information Radar I find that the vast majority of these publications trail what bloggers are talking about and they have to be superficial in comparison.  So, I've tuned them out and I've instead spent more time with very specific sources.
  • While I still buy lots of books, I read a book from cover to cover far less often than I did 5 years ago.  Actually, I'm trying to remember the last time I read a book cover to cover.  Instead, I'm using my skimming behavior on books.  Good news is that with Safari and Kindle and things like that … pretty soon this will be a more natural integration.
  • I've cut down on local networking events.  I used to go to a lot of these and even served on boards.  I still go to a few and I organize a local CTO Forum.  But I've cut down and I use Pre-Networking to make sure it's going to be a good use of time.  One thing that I've realized is that rather than committing 4 hours to an evening meeting to meet 5 random people to have a few minutes of conversation pales in comparison to the value of spending an hour on LinkedIn findings interesting people related to specific topics and scheduling 30 minute conversations with them.
  • I've similarly cut down on conferences.  I still like to go in order to get together with people I already know.  And by presenting, it helps me build new connections.  Still there's a question in my mind of the value of doing a conference vs. the value of spending time doing something like Learn Trends.  Right now, I'm doing more virtual stuff and less in-person.


Part of the question behind the question is whether the replacement of these things makes life better or worse.  I don't have any more time than I had 5 years ago.  And some people would see replacing 3 hours with the Sunday paper with writing this blog post as a bad thing.  I personally don't see it that way, but I'm sure it's open to debate.  Right now, mentally, I think I'm talking to you.  Yes, you.  Well actually not you, but a theoretical model in my head of who you are.  But still it feels like a kind of conversation. 

It also continually puts me in a better learning mode – I'm not sitting passively consuming.  I'm active.  I'm writing.  I'm conversing.

But probably the best part of all of this has been the greatly increased interaction with other people to discuss targeted questions.  Reaching out through LinkedIn to have 30 minute conversations is a beautiful thing.  Discussing things via blog comments or blog posts is beautiful.  Getting online together via Learn Trends is great.

By the way, I still spend lots of time playing volleyball, taking my kids to all their events, having a generally great life here in sunny Southern California.  In fact, once I'm done with this post, my kids and I will be heading to the beach for volleyball and some fun.

Life is better with social media.


Robert Kennedy III said...


This is great. It does put YOU in perspective but it also helped me clarify a couple other things about my day. I really latched on to your statement about PRE-networking. I think that is something I need to consider even more. I do some of it now via LinkedIn and other sources. However, I admit to feeling guilty sometimes because I miss out on a local ASTD chapter function. I had been feeling like I was missing out on precious opportunities.

But, here is another question. Are you able to treat conferences and other functions in the way you now do simply because you are more established? Can a 'newbie' utilize some of the same concepts you seem to espouse (with specific regard to networking and conferences, virtual vs non) and be successful? OK, so, that is actually two questions :-). But you get the drift.

Thanks again for your time on this.

Robert K.

Ethan said...

Tony- I like this post. I especially am intrigued by the idea of setting a block of time each week to work on new blog post(s).

During the day I'm an eLearning Technology Consultant but I devote much of my spare time outside of work to writing, recording and performing music. I find that I get creative bursts at inopportune times- like 10am while I'm sitting at my desk working on a project.

I'd be curios to hear how you or your readers deal with creativity. Is it possible to "delay" creative impulses till later? how do you capture this when it happens?

Tony Karrer said...

@Robert - thanks for the comment and for fostering this question!

I'm not 100% sure I get your question, but it seems like you are asking if a newbie can get the same result from prenetworking.

My guess is that everyone can get good results, but that its a percentage game and some people will get a higher percentage response than others. For example, if Obama or Oprah request a conversation with you. 100% Yes. A college student will get a much lower percentage.

You can greatly increase your percentage by asking good questions though. And value with an interesting question that's been thought through. Or just ask a good question - like you did.

Tony Karrer said...

@Ethan - that's a great question. I am creative as well, but in a very different way. I definitely am able to defer my creativity to later and use my save pile to help spark me.

That said, there are times when my chosen time just doesn't feel great for writing or reading or learning.

I'm hoping other people will chime in on that.

Robert Kennedy III said...

@Ethan - Like yourself, I am a musician. I too get creative bursts. While some can put their creative bursts on hold and comeback to it with the same intensity I can't always do that so I know your feeling. At the same time, your work is a priority and is your bread and butter. Well, I have come to accept that there are SOME creative burst I just am not going to be able to act on. But I balance that by accepting that others will come. Additionally, I always make sure I have a recording device (part of the reason I use smartphones (Blackberry, Windows Mobile, whatever) that have a record function). In some moments when I get an inspiration, I can record it into my phone and come back to it later. If it is something that doesn't need to be spoken, I jot it down. I use a MacBook which has a neat application called Stickies. Works the same way as post-it notes. I have a LOT of little jots on those. Find what works for you. Don't quelch the creativity because its what makes you uniquely you. But we still have to prioritize things and find what works best for our lives. Hope that helps.

Tami S. said...

Could you expand on your big electronic pile because this is where I find myself getting stuck. I'll end up with so much information that I want to review that the pile seems overwhelming. I typically send online articles to OneNote, but they still sit in an unfiled notebook until I can get to them and then I find too often the formatting is such a mess that the article unreadable until I spend time formatting. Talk about creative buzz-kill.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very timely topic for me personally.

Sreya Dutta said...

Tony, I think what you've shared here is excellent. I do believe that everyone does have 24 hrs and what you do with the time matters. If you've read my post you may realize I'm not as organized, but I do want to be a person who can maximize my ability of doing things and in effect increasing my efficiency. I think this is a very interesting topic for each one of us to introspect and re plan where required, so we can make the most of each day the way we would like it to be.

Thanks for asking the question and sharing your own points as well!


V Yonkers said...

When you say you write your blogs one day a week, does that mean you write 5-6 posts and then have them go "live" later (one a day)? I know you post more than once a week.

I have thought about doing that, but I'm afraid I'll forget to post. However, you also mentioned you take notes for the posts during the week. I am assuming this changes if something comes up during the conversations. Or do you incorporate that into your work week (knowing that you will write at least one post about an issue from the comment).

Tony Karrer said...

@Tami - In terms of my pile - I agree that it easily and quickly can get out of hand. Actually, let me step back and be clear that it's a pile of topics that I want to research and write about. I put newish stuff towards the top and as things get older they move to the bottom where I ignore them. It will contain a few links.

Once I start to write on something, I try to finish it off relatively quickly. Otherwise, it just piles up halfway done.

I don't use it for a to-read list. I try to make sure that I follow my own Tool Set rules for handling material, reading, remembering.

Let me know if you have further questions.

Tony Karrer said...

@Virginia - I write 2-4 posts a week and often will have a couple of announcement kind of things in addition. I schedule them to come out each day early in the morning.

I'm really not sure if that's optimal, but I believe that if I either post twice the same day or post on weekends then I get less comments.

Tami S said...

@Tony Thanks for the additional comments. You've brought home the issue that I struggle with - making the time to deal with new ideas and content sooner rather than later.

The concept of setting aside time to digest what I've read and formulate ideas and opinions during the regular work day is a challenge. I'm still very new to my current position. Less than a year. Before that my success was measured in numbers - how many new employees were trained, how much new curriculum was developed, how many employees went through the firm university and how many support tickets were entered.

Thinking back though, I made time for reflection during the commute to and from work; but I work from home now and have not figured out how to best carve out that time.

Jenise said...

Great clarification, Tony.

And, thank you for the link back to my blog. What I deal with is a "desire to be like Tony Karrer" with the Web 2.0 pace you pursue, yet I need "to be me" and live digitally in a way that best fits what I do and who I serve.

Yes, TV is becoming less of a resource. The live learning via the WWW may make TV obsolete in a few years, unless the TV programs integrate Web 2.0 into their spots.

Meetspace vs. Meatspace ... I still value networking events only if they will provide true value to those who attend, instead of being a money maker for the organizer.

Bottom line for me is: I admire Tony's Web 2.0 activities, and as much as I may want to pattern myself after him, I constantly do a goals and outcome analysis on my own life, then focus my activities on the WWW in a way that fits in with those goals.

Tony, keep raising the bar for us, we'll each reach as high with Web 2.0 along with you, according to our individual goals. :)