Killing Busyness – Doing Less To Accomplish More

information overload

Focus has been a key goal and resolution for me in 2015. For years I danced on the deadly edge of complete digital distraction. It became increasingly clear I needed to take a few steps back. My meme driven life was destroying my concentration and preventing me from getting things done.

A couple of years back i wrote about the absolute joy I took in information overload. I dove into the internet every day and would barely come up for air. Likening the experience to “swallowing the ocean” I extolled the virtues of infinite choice and endless possibility. There was just too much great stuff to ignore. My insatiable curiosity combined with some serious FOMO had me staring at screens from the moment I woke up until just before I closed my eyes at night.

But then something happened.

With 30 tabs open, music playing on my laptop while I watched video on my phone, simultaneously looking through notes on my iPad, I realized maybe I had a problem. No focus. No focus whatsoever. Distraction was king and my waking life was ruled by beeps, buzzes and alerts leading me from one app to another, from website to video, from game to text to Twitter to Instagram to Facebook. My focus was fractured, my productivity likely suffering and my enjoyment of the real things in life had diminished.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with newsletters, blogs, apps, social, games and never ending clickbait. My goal wasn’t to go cold turkey, but to spend more time doing and less time consuming. Multitasking to one task at a time. I simply wanted (and needed) to draw the line somewhere. I needed to go on a information diet. But how?

First of all, I hit unsubscribe on dozens of daily and weekly email newsletters. I expunged as many apps from my phone as I could bear. I cut my RSS feeds in half. I stopped saving countless articles to read later. I’ve limited myself to only five tabs open at a time. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Then, I made a point of putting down my phone, often leaving it in another room at home. I stopped taking it with me to meetings at work. If I have it I will always look at it. It beckons and teases me and I am no stronger than the kids in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. Better for me to leave it in my bag or out of reach than tempt fate.

So what happened next?

Suddenly I had time, not oceans of time, but time. That all-consuming busyness I had used as a shield for years began to dissipate. I paid attention. I listened. Where I once filled every second of available time with checking emails, opening Facebook or ripping through my Instagram feed, I began to have wonderful moments of silence and clarity. How nice to think about nothing for a change.

And here is just a short list of other things that started happening.
– Rich, undistracted conversations
– Deeper focus at work and home
– My daily to-do list gets crushed early
– More time to read real books
– Written over 100,000 words in four and a half months
– Exercising four to five days a week

The funny thing is I don’t think I’ve missed much of anything important online. While I thought I would regret letting go of those email newsletters, apps and all the other distractions, I’ve never looked back. I’ve still got plenty of great stuff to sift through every day, plus I have much better focus and the gift of time. By doing less I actually accomplish mush more. And I keep three things in mind whenever I’m online. Unfollow, unsubscribe, delete.

Better Job Search Through Technology

job search through tech image

It’s hard to believe that there was a time before LinkedIn, Google or even email. How on earth did people find opportunities back in the Dark Ages of job search? It’s a terrifying thought, but MindFlash has done the hard work and uncovered the long-forgotten secrets of pre-millennium job hunting in Western Civilizations’s Historical Guide to the Job Search. Letters, phone calls, classified ads. The horror…the horror!

I wrote about the Latest Job Hunting Apps, Tools and Tech for AOL Jobs right here.

A Few Thoughts on the Social TV NYC Meetup

Social TV NYC logo

A few years ago I signed up to attend the Social TV NYC Meetup. It was right around the time that Social TV was really taking off. Twitter and Facebook were blowing up. Tunerfish, GetGlue and Miso were all jumping into the second screen check-in space. Every broadcast and cable marketer saw the opportunity to boost conversation and hopefully ratings. It was an exciting time to be a TV marketer.

The first gathering I attended was terrific, with everything that you want in a meetup. Great presentations. Great people. And snacks! I eagerly signed up for the next one only to show up and be greeted by a sign on the door that the meetup was cancelled. After that I never heard another word until I got an email last June saying the group would be shut down without an organizer.

Damn, I liked that meetup. So I reached out to the one person I know who knows everyone in the social TV universe, Natan Edelsburg of Lost Remote and Sawhorse Media, and said, “Let’s do this.”

Within a couple of weeks we had our first meetup. About 25 people showed up at Sawhorse early on a Thursday morning in July to talk social TV and eat bagels. It was great and Natan and I knew we had stumbled on something special. Nobody shows up at 8am in New York unless they are passionate about a topic and want to connect with others just as enthusiastic.

In August we invited our first guest speaker, Don Steele from Comedy Central. Kelle Rozell from truTV joined us in September, followed by Ryan Osborn of NBC News in October. David Beck from Univision took the hot seat in November and JP Lespinasse from BET finished off 2013.

What was remarkable about all these guests is how candid and insightful they were on the challenges, strategies, tactics and rewards of handling social for a broadcast or cable network. The informal structure of the group allows for a free flowing conversation that has everyone involved and fully engaged.

tvtag logo

Social TV has come a long way in a few short years and 2014 will be even bigger. Just this week GetGlue relaunched as tvtag, Yahoo put IntoNow out to pasture and Viggle acquired Dijit. Hold on folks, this year will be interesting.

I posed a few questions to some of our past guests about what mattered in 2013 and what’s ahead for 2014.

1. What was the most important advancement in Social TV for 2013?

RYAN OSBORN (NBC News)  To me, 2013 was the year that video producers moved beyond the shiny new toys of platforms and realized that at the core of any “social TV” strategy is good content. No one cares about a hashtag or a GIF if the story and media in its original form is not compelling.

KELLE ROZELL (truTV)  Tough question. The Nielsen causal report linking Twitter to driving ratings and ultimately creating a Nielsen Twitter TV Rating. Hopefully these numbers will help with monetization in the near future.

SEE IT logo

JP LESPINASSE (BET Networks)  SEEiT – ability to discover shows/tweets on digital, then take an action that directly affects your TV screen is transformative for #socialtv.

2. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to your brand and Social TV?

RYAN  Particularly in news, our brands are built on trust and a promise to our users that we take very seriously. Any social experience that we create meets a very high editorial standard that we are committed to upholding across platforms.

KELLE  Getting company-wide support. Education on the value of social is key, but not everyone understands it. Building an infrastructure even down to the Network Operations level has also been a challenge, but all parties are on board to breakdown the firewalls for 2014.

JP  Data. Sifting through it, making sense of it, making actionable plans based on it and resourcing. How do you staff social? Where does it live in the firm? How best to ensure it permeates the organization.

3. What do you predict will be a Social TV game changer in 2014?

RYAN  The biggest game changer is going to come from TV producers that experiment, but most importantly have the patience to play the long game in a very complex ecosystem. So many producers announce “social TV” products built by outside vendors that don’t scale and are gone by the time you’ve finished reading the press release. I’m most excited when I talk to innovators like the CTO of Zeebox, Anthony Rose, who has a vision for a real platform that aims to become a utility or when I see Comcast’s vision for an initiative like SEEiT. I think those are the initiatives to watch.

KELLE   Can I get back to you on this?

JP  2014 – Not sure. I know this though, 14 is mobile’s year to shine and with the vast majority of social happening there – outputs of this shift will impact #socialtv in a meaningful way. Your mobile will be your default credit card, your remote control and has already become the primary recommendation engine. Someone will make a mobile sumthin’ – and it will have HUGE social TV. implications. I’m just not sure what it’ll be…yet.

Tomorrow, we kick off 2014 with Jenny McCoy from IFC. It starts early, but the bagels are fresh and the coffee is hot. Join us!

#NJTech Meetup 44 with Vinnie Bharara

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Pizza, beer, startups, guest speakers. Hmm. what’s not to like?

Welcome to 2014 and the first NJ Tech Meetup of the year. I’ve written before that this meetup is a personal favorite and the Thursday 1/9/14 gathering lived up to the usual high standard. Startups included Mommies 247, Stantt and Pijon Box. The evening’s guest speaker was Vinnie Bharara, co-founder of Quidsi.

Aaron Price

Aaron Price laying down the law. A ripple of fear runs through the crowd

The founder, organizer and ringleader for the meetup is Aaron Price. The man is a huge cheerleader for tech in Hoboken and New Jersey. He runs this group like a machine which is probably why it is always awesome and sold out. After his opening comments and quick pitches and requests from the crowd it was time to hear some startup presentations.

Mommies taking over the world

Mommies taking over the world

First up was Mommies 24/7. They started as Hoboken Mommies as a way to get moms together online and in real life. “What if Facebook and Meetup had a baby?” is how they position themselves. They’re currently reaching beyond the borders of Hoboken and have a plan for mommy content world domination.

Say goodbye to small, medium and large

Say goodbye to small, medium and large

Next up, Stantt has a serious goal of ridding the globe of small, medium and large (please be gentle with extra large). They make custom fit clothing for men using data and technology. They boast of over 50 size combinations guaranteeing you a perfect fit. While they import the fabric, their clothing is made right here in the USA.

Please don't feed the Pijon, the Pijon feeds you

Please don’t feed the Pijon, the Pijon feeds you

Finally, Pijon Box aims to dominate the college care package industry with their monthly subscription boxes of goodies. These boxes are specifically designed and curated with college students in mind. You can customize for men or women. Plus, there is a social good component and Pijon gives back with every box sold.

Now on to the main event. Vinnie Bharara is the co-founder of Quidsi, an e-commerce company and parent of diapers.com, soap.com, wag.com and more. They sold to Amazon a couple of years back for $545 million. He recently stepped away from Quidsi and is currently plotting his next move.

Powerpoint? We don't need no stinkin' powerpoint!

Powerpoint? We don’t need no stinkin’ powerpoint!

Rather than the usual powerpoint typical of the guest speakers, Vinnie just talked without visual aid. He spoke about entrepreneurship, bootstrapping, company culture, customer service, kindness and rigorously standing by your organization’s core values. He quoted Maya Angelou to prove his point about Quidsi’s mission “to inspire passion in our customers.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

What impressed me was how deeply he seemed to hold the company’s values and truly live them personally and professionally. Having made a recent purchase at diapers.com, I was incredibly impressed with the price, ease of purchase and overall service. It was obvious his passion for excellent customer service and belief in the core tenets were integral to Quidsi’s success.

The final highlight of the evening was the telephone vote for best startup presentation. After using their mobiles to answer questions about the startups and earn points, the crowd cast their ballots. All three companies gave smart pitches. All had compelling stories. Who would win? Both the glory of victory and a beat up hand-me-down trophy hung in the balance.

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The Pijon Box crew revels in the glory of victory. (photo by Dominic Rivera)

And the winner was…Pijon Box. Congratulations!

Next month’s meetup is the daylong NJ Spark Summit on Tuesday, February 25th. You can find the details here.

Fighting the Unemployment Blues

Keep moving and follow these steps on your jobseeking journey. Here’s something I wrote for AOL jobs.

Apps To Supercharge Your Job Search

Conduct an expert job search from your smartphone. Here’s something I wrote for AOL Jobs about making your job search mobile first.

How To Crush That Networking Event

You say you hate to network? So did I. Not anymore. Here’s something I wrote for AOL Jobs about maximizing the networking experience.

What My 10 Year Old Teaches Me Every Day About Technology & Social Media

Bill Hartnett: What a 10-Year-Old Teaches Me Every Day about Technology and Social Media

Here’s something I wrote a few weeks back for David Berkowitz’s Marketers Studio marketing blog. If you are not already familiar with him or his work, he is an all-around awesome guy with an insatiable curiosity for gadgets, innovation and desserts.

The Jobseeker’s Holiday Survival Guide

The Jobseeker’s Holiday Survival Guide

10 steps to find the joy in the December job hunt (something I wrote for @aoljobs)

100 Rides on CitiBike

kids citibike

My future CitiBikers

Last week I jumped on a CitiBike for the 100th time. Since I got my key in late June I have pedaled all over lower Manhattan, trekked to Brooklyn, yelled at cabbies, narrowly avoided pedestrians, saved a ton of money on subway and cab fare and seen our city from a brand new perspective.

My first ride in June took me from 14th Street up to 31st. Climbing on that bike for the first time and joining the riders all heading north on Sixth Avenue was a glorious adventure. The early summer sun felt invigorating as I maneuvered the heavy frame around cabs and delivery trucks. Although the ride lasted less than ten minutes and was barely a mile, it felt like a mini-epic.

My 100th ride started on 14th and took me to the Port Authority. I was rushing to meet my girlfriend who was just about to have a baby.  I jetted across town and up Eighth Avenue, easily beating a subway ride and probably besting a cab. And that ride, too, felt like a mini-epic.

One thing remains true after 100 rides. Using a bike to get around Manhattan is a great way to travel.

And a few random observations…

  • Traffic is not as hideous and formidable as one would think.
  • There are plenty of cyclists on the streets and the majority are not on CitiBikes.
  • Cabbies, pedestrians, drivers and cyclists are all idiots, it just depends on your mode of travel which ones are the idiots at that moment.
  • There aren’t enough bikes at rush hour, but they are working hard to fix that.
  • CitiBike has saved me a ton of money and is generally super convenient.
  • The bikes aren’t indestructible, but damn close. I hit a pothole that would have left me lying in the street with a broken collarbone and bent rim on a regular bike. On a Citibike I pounded right through it.
  • The big lesson is be patient and share the road. We are all traffic and we will all get to where we need to go.
  • AND you do NOT want to be this guy!

And let’s play point/counterpoint…

The bike lanes SUCK. Like any public space in the city, everyone thinks it belongs to them. The lanes set aside for cyclists are crowded with pedestrians, delivery trucks, street meat vendors and cabs. Don’t even think about enjoying a ride along Eighth Avenue during rush hour. It has become its own circle in Dante’s Hell. Keep your eyes open and take your time.

The bike lanes are AWESOME. I can’t believe the city set aside space just for bikes. First, Broadway, Eighth and Ninth Avenues have terrific standalone lanes. They are much safer than riding in traffic. The lanes on Sixth and Second are a bit more treacherous, but manageable. Plus, the lanes will take you all over the city in relative safety.

The CitiBike app SUCKS. The app alleges it has real-time stats on bike availability…and it is almost never right. They still can’t account for broken bikes. Nothing like showing up at a station promising bikes and find none or a bunch of broken ones.

Citibike app

Wow! 15 bikes waiting for me

no bikes citibike fail

Yes! One broken bike and 14 invisible ones

The CitiBike app is AWESOME. Want to know where the nearest station is located? It’s got you covered. Need the best route across town or out to Brooklyn? Another clutch feature is letting you know how many open stalls there are. Nothing worse than arriving at your destination and every stall is filled. The app will map it for you. I use this app almost every day.

For me Citibike has been a huge boost to my day-to-day routine. I get places faster, earlier and cheaper. It’s a blast to be fully engaged in the world around me while whizzing up or down the avenues. It even counts as exercise on super busy days. Every time I have the pedals beneath my feet I get that same glorious thrill I had with my first ride. Citibike may have plenty of haters, but it makes NYC an even better place. Get out there and take a ride.