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« Slides from Kellogg Action Lab: College of Consultants - Making Sense and Success with Social Media | Main | Digital Literacy SKills Redux »


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Ellen Marden

Thank you so much for this Beth! As a wahm, I got into a pattern of being online until the wee hours and having to get up early with the kids which meant I was too tired for exercise and foggy brained in the morning until I started the pattern all over again. The best thing I've done is type up a tenative schedule for myself with detail. I start with scheduling my run (how I stay healthy) and food breaks (otherwise I eat only on the fly) and hours that I work at my desk, time that I turn off and am present with the family, and scheduling errands in a certain window. I still twitter and check emails at the bus stop, at the grocery store and yes, in the bathroom, but having structure decreases my anxiety about what I'm not getting done. Thanks for all of the great tips...I'm listening and integrating much of what I've read here and appreciate the validation and encouragement.

david lee king

On the "never be caught up" point - I'd add what I've read others to say - think of your RSS feeds like an RSS river. You can jump in and play any time, and then get out any time, too. It's always going by, and you'll catch the important stuff - let the non-important stuff just flow on by.

It's more a mindset change than anything...

Johanna Bates

Beth, thank you. This is great. (FWIW, not reading from the bathroom.)

"...think of your RSS feeds like an RSS river. You can jump in and play any time, and then get out any time, too. It's always going by, and you'll catch the important stuff - let the non-important stuff just flow on by."

That's a fabulous analogy. I try to tell myself that the most important stuff will come around again if I miss it, or come up in some other form.

The thing I hate most is when I find I've been sucked into the Internet during family time. I get pulled in by something during time I could be talking with my partner or hanging out with my child. That's why I don't have Twhirl on my home computer. I try to make it harder for myself to go to Twitter when I'm home. I try to stay off Google Reader at home, too.

Amy Kincaid

Wow. Scary cartoon. Timely post for me, yours and Laura Whitehead's. I'm breathing a bit more easily...

catherine stifter


Thanks for these tips. As a practioner of Tai Chi and Qigong, I can share that it's all about the yin/yang balance. The "RSS river" analogy is a good one that reminds us that we are physical beings who interact with both the physical and virtual worlds. Shoulders hunch over the keyboard, chi stagnates as we sit and sit and sit.

Perhaps you could add a link to some stretching exercises for computer users? I don't have a favorite. Wonder if your readers do?

I live off the electric grid and only have solar power at my office. Each morning I literally turn on my satellite in order to connect up and then shut it all down at the end of every workday. It's such a relief to see it go dark. Feels good to walk away from it.

And sure enough, everything I need to know or didn't know I needed to know is there again the next day.

I know most folks do not shut down their machines. It is a good practice whether you have the power to keep them running or not.

Johannes Schunter

Hi Beth,

a few months ago, I had to step back from any information activity for 2-3 weeks due to kind of information burn-out or mental overload causing a constant painful headache in the temples (see my blog entry A few emergency measures helped me to get in balance again:

* I took 1 week off from the screen and written text. No computer, no TV screen, no mobile phone display, no work-related text in paper. Without compromise, which of course means taking a week off from work (I even guess 2 weeks would have been much better, but my projects didn't allow me to).
* After this week, I continued to ban Computer as well as TV from my private life for another 2 weeks (leaving a 'not available' message in my private mail and on Facebook). But at least I could work again.
* Back at work after the week off, I scheduled my mobile phone to remind me to take a 5 min break from the PC screen every hour. For lunch I took a 90 min break of which I used 60 min to have a nap in an empty office. And of course, I tried to avoid overhours if possible for the first weeks.

In addition, there were alternative activities which helped me to get my brain cleared out again:

* Of course: sports! Running, biking, long walks, gym, ball games, everything where my brain doesn't have to think, but can loose itself in the physical activity.
* Second, and more surprising: Singing! Sitting at home and playing guitar and singing along, or even joining a Karaoke party helped my brain to do 'something entirely different', thus getting refreshed.
* Yoga exercises and meditation also contributed to my inner balance, as well as being out in nature.

After 4 weeks of this procedure, I had the capacity again do my work 100%, plus writing on my blog, following RSS posts etc. The lesson I've learned is that the ability to process information is not a given, but a skill which relies on a healthy mental and physical environment. If I have to work physically outside everyday, I need to treat my body carefully, give him regular rest, good nutrition and alternative activities to stay in balance. The same applies to the knowledge workers's brain...

Nick Temple

Hi Beth - I think the time-boxing is the key here: no e-mail till 12, that kind of thing. And given that the social media stuff is only "part" of my job, it's about parcelling that up too: generally the blog posts get written between 5 and 6pm in the office.

Also, get real about which feeds are most relevant, most often: I split the feeds into daily, weekly, monthly....and then proceed to ignore that system quite a bit. Probably the main thing, which I think I learnt doing a literature degree, is to be able to scan quickly and decide whether it's relevant in a short space of time.

Other than that, bookmark what might be interesting and read it when you get the headspace.

Gina Watkins

Hey there! Loved today's blog post - as Regional Development Director for Constant Contact here in the DC region, part of my job entails helping people who do permission-based email marketing to NOT become part of overloading their recipients! I include many tips on frequency, and how to read their open rate and click-through reports to ensure "the right message at the right time" touches via email.

Also, I always advise that email MUST be quick-read - "small juicy tidbits" really is the key.

On the user side, I get help getting AWAY from my computer using the ability to pre-schedule my emails -- I write them, design them, and schedule them to be sent any day & time in the future (I do this as my life with three kids and training more than 1000 folks monthly gets TRULY hectic!! lol). I then don't sweat having to be at the computer to hit "send" at just the right time. Whew.

Anyway, time to take your advice: I'm going for a walk! :-)



As a staff member at a high-poverty elementary school I regularly experience information overload. 350 students, 50 staff and a few government bureaucracies can be equal to the force of many blog posts, feeds. etc. I scored a 10 on the quiz only because I am relatively new to these conversations and I have to be away from my desk covering recess, not because I have good habits. These thoughts come from years of trying to find balance in real -- not virtual -- communities, but some still apply.

> Know your signs: When I realize that my best synthesis is only happening in the quiet of my morning shower, I know I need more time to think.
> Go have a good long conversation with someone about the "nest" of "stuff" that is on your desk or in your head
> Get out the largest piece of paper you own or the biggest white board and draw your thinking on the content you are already trying to use
> Focus on identifying the right question(s) to answer, not on accumulating lots of data points
> Read something simple and profound that reminds you that the Buddhists think that all of this is just an illusion
> Recall that the most intractable social problems do not persist because of a lack of information, but because of a lack of will, power or resources.
> Let Beth Kanter's wise emails pile up like a plate of warm cookies and then treat yourself to some time to enjoy them. Cookies and blog posts are often best when there is more than one, but can make you feel bad if you eat too many at one sitting.


One things that came to mind right away after i read this was ...

"Be OK with letting go of it all for a while"

Meaning ... if you are the type of person that has to be in their RSS or Twitter or Facebook, etc ... all the time ... it's probably because you feel like you always have to stay 'in the know' on what's being said out there. now, there's nothing inherently wrong with that ... but i know i've found my self feeling that way and it leads to an unhealthy way of living if it's taken to far :)

So, needless to say, i didn't do much tweeting, commenting, RSS reading this past week ... work had to many other things going on and in my spare time i wanted to hang out with my wife and friends ... it was a great week and the internet stayed in tack while i was away.


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