As many of you know, I had left shoulder rotator cuff repair surgery on 12/18/09 and have been mostly offline since then except for backlogged blog posts (extensive, probably boring suggestions for “killer” scenarios) and the odd tweet (sometimes very odd as a result of the pain meds I’ve been taking, as sparingly as possible). With vision blurred by the pain meds and my left hand/arm not available, I’ve nonetheless been trying to keep up with the blogosphere, twitterverse, email, voicemail, and the flood of wonderful holiday letters that we so appreciate getting from friends and family with whom our only contact this past year may be those letters. Our own holiday letter, increasingly sent as a pdf email attachment with Smugmug links, will likely be repurposed as a Valentine, not unlike the repurposing of so much licensed/on-premise HRM software as SaaS — but I digress. All the books I had put aside to read during the two weeks of totally down time for which I was prepared (or which I was prepared to allow myself?), including two great ones by fellow EIs Nenshad Bardoliwalla and Paul Greenberg, will also have to wait until my vision is totally clear and I can hold a book comfortably.
The one thing I’ve had plenty of time to do, in addition to feeling sorry for myself, schlepping through painful PT exercises, and watching my collection of every Agatha Christie video/DVD every made, is to think. And let me tell you that’s a dangerous place to go. I’ve made so many lists of my thoughts — thoughts for client projects, future blog posts, Ron’s todo list, travel dreams, things we must have for the new boat, more thoughts for client projects, well you get the picture — that I’m now oppressed by all the lists whose line items I’ll never have time to execute. My clients are going to get some (hopefully) great ideas as soon as I can put them into deliverables or discuss them in upcoming meetings, but that will make hardly a dent in the pile of lists I’ve created over these last three weeks.
One recurring theme across those lists is the added stress of my new life in social tech land. Having started my professional life when the great social tech policy debate was about who needed a telephone — the prevailing wisdom was that we’d all amok making personal calls if given a phone — it’s fair to say that I’m many generations removed from my very young colleagues who grew up with iPod implants and no fear of turning off their computers. Yes, those early computers were never turned off except by fully qualified operators who powered them down, step by careful step, while that big red don’t touch me button, the hard stop button, called to me every time I was allowed into the inner sanctum computer room. Not unlike making myself sick on too many M&Ms, the wonderful world of always on/always communicating/always learning is wearing me down.
As I’ve been trying to recover from surgery, the endless flow of posts, comments on posts, counter-posts, tweets and more tweets, EI discussion threads, LinkedIn profile updates and group communiques, press releases and emails reminding me of press releases, all the wonderful cards/emails/tweets from caring friends and family, etc. etc. has haunted what should have been a period of complete rest. But how do you rest when there’s no way to ever read, let alone respond to, this endless flow? How do you go off the grid when, whether for vacation or recuperation when, the moment your back is turned, you’ve missed four calling vendors, three acquisitions, two heads a-rolling and a partridge in a pear tree, all accompanied by a blizzard of often useful commentary? Am I the only one who feels overwhelmed? Are younger brains more able to zoom/key/touch through it all and remain focused on individual projects or tasks?
Rather than be so overwhelmed by this flood that I’m unable to maintain focus and intellectual intensity, it’s time to accept the fact that I’m never going to be a digital native. I’m never going to be comfortable with unanswered voice or email, with missed tweets that might have contained the secret to great HRM, with blog posts for which I’ll never have time to digest or add valuable comments. This embarrassment of substantive riches, this outpouring of relevant commentary, this flood of minutiae about what people ate and where, is just too much for my aging brain. If my much younger colleagues can absorb and really care about all of this, more power to them. As for me, I’m prepared to accept my status as a digital immigrant who can never go more than semi-native.
And with that acceptance comes my 2010 action plan for managing the flood. Just as with my favorite candy, M&Ms, too much of a good think can make me sick. I’ll continue to experiment with devices, software and techniques that may have some bearing on the HRM business so that I can offer relevant guidance on their use or avoidance to my clients, both to end-users and software/services vendors. I’ll continue to experiment with devices, tools and techniques that may be useful to Bloom & Wallace’s business or to Ron’s and my personal lives. But I’ve begun setting limits, just as I’ve had to do with M&Ms since I nearly OD’d writing my book in 1993:
1) I will not be checking Facebook any time soon. Friends and family will have to be in touch directly, and we’ll do the same, pointing them to our photo albums on Smugmug as appropriate or to our family-only use of Geni. I hope to write more about my personal life doings/insights between the professional postings on my blog, using careful titles/categories/coming soon tags to help readers find what’s relevant to them. While I’ll never get used to living my life in the public way that’s the norm for digital natives, this semi-native has come to value the many ways in which social technology helps us broaden our circles and stay connected to them, and I see this blog evolving from professional outlet to personal/professional memoir over the next few years.
2) I will not follow more than 250 tweeps, including vendors I follow for strictly professional reasons, no matter how interesting/learned/simpatico/personable/relevant/etc. they may be — I just can’t cope with more than that, and I will prune my list with great angst over every cut. With our walls/shelves now covered with wonderful art/ceramics/carvings/object d’art from around the world, 2010 is the year in which Ron and I will try to “regift” or donate an item for every new acquisition, not because we love the outgoing item less but because the incoming one is more immediately affecting. And so it must be with the tweeps I follow, the blogs I read regularly, the folks I routinely connect with via LinkedIn, etc.
3) I will use LinkedIn as the primary vehicle for connecting with professional colleagues/acquaintances who are not now and are never likely to be personal friends but with whom I choose to keep in touch for professional reasons. While I’m also connected via LinkedIn to many professional colleagues who have also become friends, not to mention tweeps who have become or are likely to become closer peeps, I view LinkedIn more as my extended professional Rolodex (does anyone still have one of those wonderful multi-wheel, business card holding devices?) than as a personal networking resource.
4) I will continue to use the phone when I want to have a conversation — not just an asynchronous exchange of information or ideas but a real conversation — perhaps moving to VOIP and definitely upgrading my smartphone, because there’s a lot of information in tone/speed/inflection/etc. that’s hard to convey/discern via words on screen or paper. If you really want to know what I think about something important, let’s talk about it.
Just as more and more organizations are setting up social technology policies, so is Bloom & Wallace. More on that in another post.