Friday, November 20, 2009
If you're anything like me, you love diving into new things headfirst, all or nothing.
Sometimes, that's a great asset; other times, it can cause a serious drop in productivity, especially if you work from home or if you're at a computer most of the day.
You guessed it -- I'm talking about Twitter.
It's hip. It's fun. It's addictive. "But I'm networking to build my home-based entrepreneur business," you say. Great, I say. More power to you! Just as long as it doesn't come at the expense of whoever's paying your salary right now.
How I started.
Probably the most difficult part of learning to use these new types of social media is learning how to manage their proper usage, rather than employing a "kid in a candy store" approach. I'll be the first to admit, when I first discovered the "world wide web", back in 1995, I was amazed by the fact that I could "chat" with someone in Indonesia or Australia as if they were right next to me. So amazed, in fact, on that first day a friend introduced me to Miss Internet, I spent 12 hours straight chatting. I was hooked.
I tell you this story only to use it as an extreme example of how e-socializing can zap your productivity down to naught. Over the past 14 years, I've seen a lot of internet trends and fads rise and fall. Social Media is definitely here to stay, so it's important to have this discussion now while the phenomenon is still "relatively" young.
Social Media can be a wonderful tool if handled properly. For you DIYers out there, I know you wouldn't try to use a drill as your only tool when remodeling a kitchen (well, maybe some of you would, but that's for a different post). Similarly, Twitter must be considered one tool in a full toolbox of networking and marketing tools. With that said, we'll now discuss how to properly use said tool.
Just our inventions.
Many authors bludgeon the phrase "time is money" when referring to how social media affects productivity, but I disagree. I believe time is time, and money is money, and both are simply inventions of mankind as ways to measure the value of something. As in, "this must be good, it (took a long time to make / cost a lot of money)," choose your own answer. Either way, neither existed before us, and both will evaporate when we're all gone.
I use this argument as a way to show that productivity doesn't simply mean you spend more time on something, but rather, of what quality was the time you spent on the assignment? Were you focused on your task, distraction-free, really aware of what you were doing in that moment? Or were you trying to write an article with one eye (ahem) and follow your tweep's updates on TweetDeck with the other? (Who, me?)
My conclusion, based on a decade-and-a-half of online networking, is that you don't always get better results from something just by spending more time doing it. The solution isn't as easy as "spend less time on Twitter and more time working". I would suggest spending less time doing both, but being more focused on the task at hand so that the work you are doing is quality work. (This leads to more free time, which as we all know, is the best way to increase productivity.)
The Zen approach.
Zen students would call this approach "being in the moment", and I must admit, it's an approach that has worked well for me. I used to be a strong believer in multi-tasking, having a dozen or more tabs open in my browser, reading an email while waiting for another site to load, then squirting out a couple of tweets in one tab, skimming a blog entry in another and reading headlines scrolling across the bottom of my window...did the other page load yet?...need to open a new tab...
My proposed solution to this mayhem may sound archaic, but what works for one sometimes works for another, so here goes: devote 30 minutes twice a day to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (or your favorite other forms of social), and when you're through, close it.
Shocking, right? I know I'm not the first to suggest this, and at first it can feel like you're cutting your own umbilical cord, but it does work. For extreme cases, there's even a program you can download that forces whatever programs you choose to be closed during certain times of day, just so you can get things done.
My proposed solution works from the inside-out. It's a conscious decision to organize and prioritize your daily goals instead of trying to do everything at the same time. This way, instead of trying to "do more" in "less time", as some other sites would suggest, you are taking steps towards improving your quality of life as well as your quality of work, by simplifying your current task and giving it your full engagement.
Get it done early.
Personally, I always try to accomplish one semi-important task each day before I read any emails or even open my browser. Then, I'll spend a few minutes reading and responding to emails, followed by a 30-minute Twitter session. If I'm focused, all my social marketing, networking, and email responding is done by the first coffee break, plus I've already got one task done off my daily list (which I always make the previous day, right before leaving the office.)
Then, after lunch, I'll do another *shorter* social media stint, catch up on replies, and see what the rest of the world is up to. What I've discovered, ironically, is that even though I'm not "connected" to Twitter all day long, I'm really not missing that much. Don't get me wrong, though -- Twitter is a fantastic resource, albeit one that is easy to abuse (as many tweeters do). The key here is, as with almost everything in life, finding a balance.
In closing, this discussion isn't supposed to induce a magical cure-all to relieve the symptoms of Social Media overuse and indigestion. It's purpose is simply to suggest that by being in the moment whatever you're doing, whether it's tweeting, preparing a new business proposal, or writing an article for your company blog, you'll be more productive if you stay completely focused on the task at hand.
And you'll only need one tab to do it.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It's that time again -- contest time!
This month, we're offering some very special illustrations from Jen's Etsy store. These cute, matching owls are named Harry & Bernadette, and they are going as a pair because they are lovers and didn't want to be separated.
They are printed with archival ink on acid-free paper and come in protective plastic sleeves. Also, they will be mailed in a sturdy cardboard mailer to ensure safe arrival.
So what do I have to do to win?
Good question. There are actually three different ways to enter this time, and each one will earn you a unique entry for a total of three. The contest will run for one week from today, meaning we'll have the randomizer random drawing on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at noon Eastern time.
Here's how to earn up to THREE entries:
1) Re-tweet the following message on Twitter:
@jenandtommy are giving away 2 FREE "Owl" art prints!
http://jenandtommy.com #etsy #owls
3) Send Jen a convo on Etsy telling her you saw this blog post and why you should win the Owl illustrations.
That's it! So now you know how to earn up to 3 unique entries in the contest. You can only get 3, but the more you RT and spread the word, the more the randomizer gods will probably smile on you. (don't laugh, it's true. it's worked for me in the past.)
If you love Owls, you will love these prints. And by the way, be sure to check out Jen's Etsy shop, nspire, from time to time to see her latest work! She's got everything from illustrations to handmade buttons to felted ipod cases to reuseable coffee cup cozies, and she's ALWAYS up for some good old-fashioned trading.
Good luck! *hoot*
Monday, November 9, 2009
What do Pierce Brosnan, Anthony Kiedis and Einstein have in common? (besides an "ie" or "ei" letter combination.)
You guessed it - they all choose to live meat-free, and not just on Mondays, either.
As of June 15th, 2009, "Meat Free Monday" was officially (re)launched in the UK and support has spread worldwide as the day has become more well-known.
The Independent, a UK-based newspaper, reveals: "The McCartneys have attracted support from across the worlds of showbusiness, science, business and the environment. The singer Chris Martin, Hollywood stars Kevin Spacey and Woody Harrelson, actress Joanna Lumley and Sir Richard Branson are advocating meat-free Mondays."
Support has also come from comedians Ricky Gervais, David Walliams and Matt Lucas, the poet Benjamin Zephaniah and Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman.
Another supporter, Sir David King, the Government's former chief scientist, said: "The carbon and water footprints associated with producing beef are about 20 times larger than maize (corn) production. Eating less meat will help the environment."'
Sadly, about 1/3 of the land mass of the entire planet is used for livestock or dairy production. Eating a veggie burger every week can reduce as much carbon monoxide emissions as driving a Prius! So think about it, for many different reasons.
The Meat Free Monday Song:
To further help spread the news that going meat-free is catching on, check out this partial list of well-known vegetarians and vegans, compiled by HappyCow.net (in alphabetical order):
Adam Carson of AFI
Alicia Silverstone (vegan)
Andre 3000 Benjamin of Outkast
Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Bill Walton (NBA)
Brandon Boyd of Incubus
Chris Evans (Fantastic 4)
Chris Martin of Coldplay
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (same hometown as me)
Fiona Apple (vegan)
Henry David Thoreau
Joaquin Phoenix (vegan)
Joel of Good Charlotte
John Salley (NBA)
Johnny Cash (!)
Kirk Hammet of Metallica
Leonardo Da Vinci
Lisa Simpson (had to throw her in)
Mary Tyler Moore
Michael Bolton ;)
Michael Franti of Spearhead
Mike Gordon of Phish
Mr. Fred Rogers (!) - not surprising. can you imagine mr. rogers eating a steak? i can't.
Pierce Brosnan (James Bond)
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ricky Williams (NFL player)
Rivers Cuomo of Weezer
Robert Smith of The Cure
The RZA of Wu-Tang Clan
St. Francis d'Assisi
Samuel L. Jackson ("That IS a tasty veggie burger!")
Sir Isaac Newton
The Roots (yes, the entire band.)
Thom Yorke of Radiohead (vegan)
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine
Tommy Lee of Motley Crue
Tony Gonzales (NFL player)
Vincent Van Gogh
Weird Al Yankovic (vegan!)
Woody Harrelson (vegan)
I tried to select a nice cross-section for this abbreviated list, so that everyone could find someone they relate to, and think to themselves "Oh, if so-and-so can do it, I can too." etc. You can find an even more comprehensive list here, updated October 28, 2009 as of the writing of this post.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Last Sunday we were hanging out in Jamaica Plain and Brookline, so we decided to check out the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.
The oldest arboretum (tree sanctuary) in the country, AA is named after its financier, whaling tycoon and horticulturalist James Arnold. Visitors come primarily to stroll amongst the exotic greenery, which includes bonsai and lilac trees, along with several other non-native plant and tree species. Because Arnold left most of his estate to Harvard (HA-vahd), and the school uses the arboretum as a nature museum, it's only fair for the city to allow the university to rent the land for just $1 per year.
Open every day until dusk; visitor center open 9am-4pm weekdays, 10am-4pm Sat, 12pm-4pm Sun. Closed holidays, entry always free!
Link to Arnold Arboretum website.
All the plants and shrubs have these metal tags to tell what they are. I thought they were American Express Gold Cards at first!
Click any of the images for a full-screen version.
The AA is part of Boston's famed "Emerald Necklace", a string of green spaces that Beantown wears proudly and especially shines throughout Summer and Fall. The Necklace was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park in NYC. Olmstead designed the park system in 1883 after moving to Brookline (a seperate town that's really "part" of Boston) from New York. The Necklace was originally designed to be an uninterrupted 5-mile walkway from Back Bay to Franklin Park, where Bostonians could stroll barefoot and without worry. While I probably wouldn't recommend walking the route barefoot today, it remains as an incredibly well-thought-out system of greenways, ponds and trails throughout the city.
Unfortunately, the necklace has been broken up over the years, thanks to increased traffic volume, overpasses, bypasses and roads, not to mention construction and other urban blight, but there is good news on the horizon: the city planners and conservation groups are putting together a master plan for the severed sections of the Necklace and together are trying to balance path restoration with traffic concerns. The idea being to re-link all the green areas back into one complete necklace.
(some text excerpted from the NFT Guide to Boston, 2009, published by Not For Tourists, Inc., © 2009. www.notfortourists.com)
Thursday, November 5, 2009
In our tradition of exploring the many incredible churches around New England, we recently came upon the Immaculate Conception Church located on East Merrimack Street.
This church sports some amazing architectural features and is a popular wedding site as well. It's very well-maintained, and is a great example of what appears to be an extremely gothic design. The interior layout can be seen at several other Lowell churches, including St. Patricks over in The Acre. Although we only went for the photos, the few people we interacted with were very nice, and most of them had been attending the church for decades.
Have a look inside:
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
So a few months ago, I entered a contest presented by Stride gum.
The contest was to develop a new name for their "ridiculously long lasting" gum's newest minty flavor. Right up my alley, right? The grand prize was for $25,000, plus a year's supply of gum. What more could a guy ask for?
Anyway, I submitted my naming suggestions and began to wait.
Weeks went by, until the day of the announcement drew closer. Then, inexplicably, Stride announced they were pulling the contest do to some kind of error on the back end. BOO!
Needless to say, I was QUITE disappointed. But, in a similar fashion as the great Dr. Pepper Gold Coin Hunt we partook in a few years ago (some of you know about this - if not, ask us and we'll fill you in), the fun was in the journey. I was 100% sure I was going to win, but as a consolation prize, Stride was kind enough to print two cases of gum featuring the unique names that I submitted for the contest.
I decided to have my own mini-contest between the two names to see which one would have won. Comment on this post and let me know which one you like better. If you're on Twitter, RT this message for one entry:
If not, just voting on our blog will earn you one entry.
After we decide on a winner via random drawing, we'll send that lucky person one pack each of the two unique packages which can be seen below:
So start voting and re-tweeting, and then you too can look forward to receiving some chewy goodness in the mail. Remember, re-tweeting earns you an extra entry, so get to it.