One year of not blogging 15:54 on Friday

Today it’s not only Friday the 13th, but it’s been one year and one day since the previous post on this blog. Is my blog dead? You tell me.

For me 2011 was a year of focus. I wanted to and almost succeeded in having six months off to be with my family. I traveled to Italy and Spain for a total of seven weeks. I spent a lot of time at home. In the summer I drove 4700 km around Finland, visiting extended family and stopping in places we usually just drive by in hurry.

Most importantly, the time I was not working I tried to completely forget work and focus on other things. This came surprisingly easily to me. Conversely, when working, I tried to completely focus on the work at hand. I admit this was not as easy.

Focus is interesting. It’s a skill that can be practiced and learned. Focus is about control, limits and attention. Here are some of the things I did in 2011 to gain more focus:

  • I limited my information intake. I pretty much stopped reading blogs and twitter, and stopped clicking on links sent to me over email. I admit feeling a bit like missing out on something, but I trust the really important information will get to me.
  • I limited watching TV. I didn’t watch much TV before, but now I never open the TV myself. If someone else is watching, I get easily distracted into watching. So you could say I never choose to watch. :)
  • I limited work time. I try to leave work at 5pm at latest. It has been a bit too easy for me to slip from this decision, but I keep trying.
  • I limited the amount of work projects. I want to focus better on fewer projects. Learning to say NO to interesting work from good friends is really hard.
  • I try to limit the scope of work projects. I’d like to think I use my selfish reasons to motivate myself to make the projects I’m involved in more focused and effective. Sometimes it is difficult to push for focus without looking like I’m trying to take over the project. If I have not found a proper way to focus the project, I admit scaling back on my ambitions and going with the unfocused flow.
  • I took even tighter control of my finances. I’ve always been pretty careful with money, but now I plan and forecast up to 12 months in advance for both my company and my personal finances. With money my rule of thumb is “no surprises allowed”. Certainty reduces and at best completely removes stress about finances, freeing my attention up for more productive things.
  • In addition to long-term planning, I started planning my days quite carefully. I dump everything (and I mean everything) I need, want or intend to do in The Hit List. At the end of each day I go through the actions for tomorrow, creating a prioritized plan. This allows me to start the mornings focused on what’s important. I would say this works 90% of the time. On some mornings I just wander off and around noon I realize I haven’t yet started on the important stuff.
  • As a side effect of keeping focus on my prioritized to-do list, I turned off automatic fetching of email. I now generally check email once or twice a day. First around lunch time, and then possibly later an hour before leaving work. This is a simple habit that I recommend for everyone.

This was not planned, but turns out that during all this focusing I limited my blogging to 1 post a year. I can think of several reasons for this:

  • I used to blog on my free time. I spend all my working time on the laptop, so now I’ve tried to live a little more and spend my free time doing stuff outside the confines of my MacBook screen. So, I’ve had less laptop time, and thus less time for blogging.
  • Facebook fully fulfills my need for online discussion and ego-boosting feedback, resulting in less motivation to blog. That’s how it is, despite the fact I think longer-form writing is a great way to think deeply.
  • I’ve set the bar for a good blog post pretty high. The problem is illustrated by a quote from Keijo Tahkokallio (freely translated from Finnish):
    Our expression is limited by the fear of revealing our ignorance, thus it is better to say nothing. We speak only when we’re sure we can say it so well that nobody has nothing to add to it. And so nothing gets added.

    I clearly remember the Grand One gala night in 2009 (I think), where talking to J-P Erkkola he told me your blog posts are always so thought out there’s nothing left to comment on.

  • And the last reason I can think of is this: while I have a ton of blog drafts ready, I always keep thinking “nah, this probably doesn’t interest my readers”. Pretty silly, I know. Especially for a blog that says “personal” in big blue letters in the header. Had I stuck to this reason, even this post would never have happened.

I have not made a decision to continue or stop blogging, and the beauty is I don’t have to make that decision. But I know for sure that if I do continue, I should do it more often, blog more quickly and more half-baked thoughts, and leave more room for discussion — and the level of deep thinking only discussions can provide.

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