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.

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!

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.

Fourstalgia vs NYPL Time Traveller

A few weeks ago the New York Public Library launched NYPL Time Traveller, an app that connects to your Foursquare account and surfaces historical pictures when you check in near historical places around New York City. When you check in, Foursquare alerts you that there are historical pictures nearby and you can click through to check them out. I love anything that supercharges the Foursquare experience and hooked it up immediately.

20130723-091324.jpg

Check out history when you check in

The photos come from the library’s Photographic Views of New York City collection. The archive is more than 54,000 photos deep ranging from the 1870s through the 1970s with the bulk coming from the 1910-1940 period. The app was created as part of the NYPL Historical Geolocation Hackathon.

20130723-091433.jpg

Step back 96 years in time

Another historical photos app that covers the same territory is Fourstalgia which launched about a year ago. The app was created by Jon Hoffman, a coder at Foursquare, and draws upon the archives of SepiaTown. I raved about it here last summer.

20130723-092830.jpg

Places that are gone

Having two powerful apps that make my check ins more interesting and informative only makes Foursquare a more valuable tool when I am out and about. History is a big draw for me and I love the ability to dig beneath the surface and add context to my daily travels.

However, I want MORE from Fourstalgia and Time Traveller. Give me information about the buildings, structures and places from the past. Photos are the primary attraction, but additional context, depth and knowledge are key to fuller engagement with both apps. One huge plus with Fourstalgia is the photos are big and well-captioned. The Time Traveller does date the photos, however they are small and dark. You can tap to enlarge, but they don’t get that much bigger. It is such a shame to have a rich archive only to shortchange the user with tiny photos. Another advantage with Fourstalgia is their photo library is global while Time Traveller is NYC-only. Both apps allow social sharing to Twitter.

20130723-091348.jpg

Please make the pictures bigger

20130723-092849.jpg

Big, bold pictures

In the end both are great add-ons to Foursquare and provide a richer way to explore the city. Give them both a test drive and let me know what you think.

Delete, Delete, Delete

Recently I passed on an iPhone 4 to my son. He’s 10 years old and he was absolutely dying for a phone. Like all my gadgets it was crammed with apps, pictures, music, videos and more.

Almost immediately he was out of memory. He wanted to have more space and i said you need to delete some apps. Watching him was a beautiful thing.

He went through his deck like a madman. Boring. Delete. Don’t want it. Delete. Why do I have this? Delete. I hate this game. Delete. Outgrown. Delete. Delete. Delete Delete.

20130703-234153.jpg

It was amazing. In just a few minutes he had effortlessly and ruthlessly deleted 2GB of apps. No sentiment. No wavering. Just business.

I painstakingly debate whether to trash apps and anything else that is overloading my phone. With hundreds of games, services, social networks and utilities all mostly losing the battle for my attention, why is it so easy to add more stuff and so hard to lose it?

)Yes, I downloaded an app while writing this, but I deleted one as well, so that’s something.)

It’s just stuff, but the emotional and intellectual attachment is strong. Do I need more memory or just the execution-style app killing skills of my son? Maybe I can implement his process to clean up my iPhone, my iPad and maybe a few junk drawers as well.

In these days of app, email, text, music, video and information overload and the push to unplug and unclutter we can learn a powerful lesson from a 10 year old.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Turf – For the Foursquare Obsessive who has Everything

Turf start page

Some might say I am a little bit obsessive with Foursquare … and that might be true. Yes, I have checked in everywhere and anywhere for the past 2 1/2 years. Yes, I spent an entire weekend in 2010 on a quest for badges (extensive blog post coming someday). Right away I loved the game mechanics and the perfect combination of curation, discovery and random serendipity of the location based app. I want each update to give me better tools to find the best dish on the menu, locate the coffee shop with free wifi and help me discover the secrets of every new neighborhood.

I love checking out new Foursquare apps and hacks that add to that experience. A favorite new one that I’ve discovered is called Turf (or fully Turf Geography Club). It started as a Kickstarter project and now you can find the app in the Apple App Store (coming to Android soon). I first read about it on Mashable earlier this month where Turf founder Michael Tseng called it “real-world Monopoly.”

Basically you earn coins and crystals for checking in and spend your loot on acquiring locations. Once you own a property you not only collect rent, but must maintain the properties and can develop them to add to their value. Watch out, other stealthy players will try and spin the wheel to nab your prized properties. Of course, you win trophies as you gain experience and add to your virtual real estate portfolio. Also, it seems like the game offers plenty of opportunity for the developers to add to the experience and make Turf even better.

Initially the user interface and learning curve offer a bit of a challenge, but a little gameplay and trial-and-error will have you navigating the app like a pro. Right now they aren’t that many people playing and since Twitter has been blocking apps from helping you discover your friends, it’s hard to find your people. However, I know a couple of fellow obsessives who are playing so it has been very fun so far. While I love Foursquare apps that are baked into the core app, Turf is a standalone app, but it’s worth your time to open it up and play real estate mogul. And the retro Ranger Rick/Smokey the Bear graphics are pretty cool indeed.

So I am calling on all Foursquare obsessives to check out Turf. Download the app and start buying up your neighborhood. I would love to see you there!