Down periscope?

February 25th, 2010


Probably this will be my “Rosebud” — the thing that haunts my thoughts throughout my life — but anyway here I go again . . .

You may know that I’ve warned the world before about becoming a Neal Stephenson-like “bad correspondent.”

You may know that I had a vexed relationship with my Gmail inbox for something like a year.

You may know that I obsess at intervals about getting to Inbox Zero — even for Twitter DMs — and staying there.

(You may know that I’m perfectly happy to flog a rhetorical device like “You may know . . . ” well past its expiration date. But I’m done now.)

So, here we are. Once again I awaken to the reality that the communications load in my life is unsustainable. I love talking to people, I’m good at talking to people, and my job depends on talking to people all day long.

BUT . . . if I spend the whole day talking to people, the Real Work doesn’t happen.

Talking to people is Real, too, when it’s sincere and achieves something in terms of human connection or (*gasp*) business success. But I know a lot of really neat people with whom I could talk for hours just for the pleasure of talking. That pleasure is one of life’s high points — but achieving something lasting with your work is even higher.

All that to say this: I’m experimenting with my conversational load.

You likely won’t see me as much on Facebook and Twitter, or, when you do see me, it will be in more concentrated bursts. I may not be as quick to respond to e-mail. You’ll still see me blogging here and elsewhere, but more of my words will be spent in outward transmission rather than in two-way communication.

In sum, you can assume that I will spend more time in my shell than I have been. It’s not you, it’s me.

I hope the results will be worth it.


(Image by MATEUS_27:24&25, used under a Creative Commons Noncommercial license.)

5 Responses to “Down periscope?”

  1. Carissa Caramanis O'Brien Says:

    I place a premium on any two-communication with you, but I also know any degree of focus you place on outbound content will only bring great results. I’ll lament any loss of connections with you, but I throw my support behind your need to check your conversation load and get things done. Looking forward to our talks whenever it makes sense for the periscope to come up.

  2. Josh Duncan Says:


    I like the idea in theory, but what happens when you come up for air and you are swamped with a backlog of communications? It seems like at that point you are going to have to either play catch-up, jump in mid-stream, or develop some sort of prioritization scheme.

    Wonder if you would be better off staying active but cutting back on your channels?

    Thanks for the post,


  3. Glenda Spain Says:

    I agree with Josh!

  4. Tim Walker Says:

    Carissa — I likewise look forward to our conversations. Touchstone phrase in your comment: “get things done.”

    Josh & Mom — What happens is that, by keeping the periscope down more, I’ll *receive* less communication as a whole. One of the key principles of e-mail management is this: if you want less e-mail, *send* less e-mail. In my experience, the principle generalizes across other social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

    And you’ve hit the nail on the head with the real solution: setting priorities.

  5. What I’ve Learned So Far » Blog Archive » 19 inboxes. Says:

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