Monday, February 28, 2011

Managing Your (Computer!) Time

As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the INTeRnET can be an INTRovErT’s best friend. Never before have so many introverts been able to connect and socialize with others (also often introverts) from the comfort of their own home and on their own time table. It is a great tool—when we don’t allow it to overwhelm us.

This week I’m going to share some underutilized tools most of us have at hand that can help us control the internet and the demands it makes on us and our oh-so-finite time and energy. In order to manage all that is available to us, it is more important than ever to use all the time management organizational tools available to us.

  • Create Inbox folders (using Rule function with Outlook Express or Entourage) that send email directly to the designated folder where you can then choose when to read it when you're ready. It's surprising how much less overwhelming it is to not have every incoming thing cluttering up your inbox and demanding attention.

  • Consider the Digest setting for yahoo groups or listservs.

  • Organize your web browser’s bookmarks. Create folders on your toolbar that are separated or defined by their function and use to you. For example, instead of having an RSS feed where everything comes into your inbox, demanding attention, consider having a series of Blog folders grouped by their role in your life: whether they inspire, inform, or are for socialization.

  • Use a blogging platform that has a pre-scheduling feature. That way when you have a bunch of ideas or are feeling in a social mood, you can sit down and whip out a couple of blogs posts and then parcel them out on a more regular schedule. (Not that I ever do that. I write each and every one of these posts at 5:00 Monday morning then hit publish immediately!)

  • Depending on how you use Twitter (say, for broadcasting purposes) consider one of the many Tweet Scheduling programs. (I bet we could get Greg Pincus to tell us which ones he recommends!)

  • If you want to experiment with chats on Twitter, DO be sure to use TweetChat. I cannot even begin to tell you how much less stressful this is than just following the hashtag. Having said that, however, tweet chats are still pretty stressful for me (and my eyeballs.)

  • Freedom for PCs and Macs– I first heard about this from Lisa Yee. It's a program that basically locks you out of your internet connection for a set amount of time so you can, you know, write something.

  • If you work across multiple platforms and share the same content them, take advantage of the cross referencing tools available. For example, set up your blog to feed on Facebook (no, I haven’t done this yet) and set up your Twitter and FB status updates to cross feed.

So how about you guys? I know you all must have some brilliantly helpful tools and practices for managing all this. Please enter your favorite internet strategies and tips in the comments and I’ll add them to this post. Everyone who enters will get a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Introvert Extrordinaire Mitali Perkins’ BAMBOO PEOPLE. And if you don't have any tips, but you want a chance to win Mitali's books, you can just say "hi" in the comments. :-)

Lastly, in the comments to last week's interview with Jennifer Laughran, Jennifer left a terrific link  that some of you might have missed, so I wanted to be sure and point it out to you.

I stumbled on the Tribal Writer blog a few weeks ago and find it very helpful. Justine comes from a slightly more entrepreneurial place than I do, but even if one is not geared that way there are still a TON of great thought provoking ideas. 


Katherine Longshore said...

Thank you! So far my best strategy is having certain days that I read blogs (Monday being one of them). I know I may miss some wonderful blog posts, but at least I get some writing done in the meantime.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks for relisting that link. I had indeed missed it, and there were some great things to think about there.
As for time... The single most important thing I can do is send the kids off to school. It's amazing how efficient I can be when there's no one in the house but me!

Elizabeth Loupas said...

If you use Firefox, there's a free extension called LeechBlock (I know, ewwww, but very descriptive) that does much the same thing as Freedom, at least for your browser. It doesn't lock you away from your email, though. :)


Carrie said...

Thanks for the great post! I'm still trying to figure out how to manage internet time while I write. Freedom sounds like an interesting idea, but then I'm constantly checking while I write. Sometimes just closing Firefox is enough to keep me away from the internet, though :)

Stasia said...

Thanks for a fabulous post. Glad to have discovered Tribal Writer!

liz said...

This may sound kind of dumb, but what I 've started doing is setting a timer, giving myself a certain amount of time to browse the web, and then shutting my laptop and putting it in another (inconvenient) room. That way I'm not on line all day long and I get real world chores done.

Writing time wise, I used to write on an old computer that didn't have easy internet access -- I had to bring it downstairs and plug it in. It finally died and I'm looking for a way to replicate that -- I may check out some of these programs!

Kenda Turner said...

Thanks for the info'--a big help here :-)

Greg Pincus said...

Good tips, Robin. A few I'd add... like Liz, I use a timer for certain tasks (particularly blog READING). It's old school, and there are lots of apps and scheduling tools that are probably more efficient, but the timer works for me.

I use my Google Reader like you use your inbox: I set up folders for different subjects. This way, if I only have 5 minutes, I can decide what I want to read. Also, with the Reader, there's the magical "Mark All Read" button to get you to inbox zero!

As for Tweet scheduling... I have no advice for the best services as I've never scheduled a tweet. I know HootSuite lets you do it, as do many other clients/services. It can be efficient for announcing news or sharing links, but amy own personal quirk is that I like to be around when I'm tweeting since I'm hoping for conversation.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the tips. I could use some strategies for getting off the Internet. I spend too much time reading blogs, even if they are all interesting.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

One thing that helped me was scheduling. I visit the blue boards once a week; I have certain blogs that I read weekly and others that I read daily. I clean out my email boxes every weekend, when few people are sending email and it's easy to get caught up.

I don't like the digest setting for Yahoo groups, since you miss out on time-critical items and there tends to be a lot of repetition in the "reply" messages. I actually prefer all the messages to come in individually--even though it looks like a lot, they're easy to read through quickly and delete.

I set up my blog to feed to my Amazon and Goodreads author pages. I put my events on and they feed automatically to Amazon and Goodreads also.

Ironically, one thing that helps me in doing my own blog is that I don't have a regular posting schedule or regular features. My goal is to post at least every other day, more often if I feel like it, and to blog about whatever I feel like saying that day. I do have a rhythm in mind for how often to put up guest posts and how often I want to do craft posts, but it's not rigidly timed. This flexibility keeps the whole thing fun and from seeming like a chore or obligation. I figure I'm posting often enough so that people will keep coming back, even though my schedule is not set in stone. Also, with feed readers a schedule doesn't matter, since blog posts just pop up whenever they're available.

YMMV, as always!

Carin Bramsen said...

Great post! Greg, thanks for the tip about Google Reader folders - seems like a good idea.

Wild About Words said...

This one from the lovely Mary Hershey: Screen-free days. Often on Sundays, I'll avoid all screens. It's freeing. I find myself enjoying time with family, taking long walks, chatting with friends, reading, thinking, breathing, appreciating. All good things to fill our wells to do the ultimate task: WRITING.

Nancy said...

I have struggled for several years to get on top of my time management — hours slip away, I drastically underestimeate how long it will take to get something done, I drastically overestimate how much I can accomplish in a day, etc. etc. I’ve used timers, but writing down the times and then analyzing them is a challenge (and timewaster) in itself. Recently I found a free download of a program that acts like a time clock. I LOVE it. To get started, you set up a list of your tasks and program one (otherwise unused) key on your keyboard to be the hotkey — a start-stop switch. Then all you have to do is click on the task, push the hotkey, and the software will monitor how long you spend at that task until you push the key again. At the end of the day, week, month, etc, you can bring up a report that tells you how long you spent at each task. If you’ve forgotten to start or stop on time, you can go in and edit the times for that task. Here’s the address for the download:

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