24: It only works on TV

This post was written between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

For those familiar with the popular TV show “24,” my opening line will make sense. For the rest of you, it probably just raises the question of WTF I’m doing awake and writing a blog post this long before sunrise. The truth is I’ve been up since 4 a.m. anyway thanks to blizzard warnings issued via my National Weather Service radio and an inability to get back to sleep once my brain’s On switch has been flipped.

I figured I  might as well use this time to finally write the post that’s been rolling around in that over-active and over-taxed brain. The post is about how 24 hours in a day just aren’t enough. How it’s difficult to keep up with a very busy day job, a night job, blogging gigs, consulting gigs, freelance writing gigs, self-improvement, professional associations, community projects, local networking events, continuing education, reading blogs, following news alerts, staying informed on local, state, national and international news, not to mention housework, home maintenance, car maintenance, being a great dad, being a loving husband, exercising and enjoying reading a book or magazine for pure enjoyment. Oh, and I suppose eating, sleeping and personal hygiene need to be on that list, too.

I’ve kept up with most of everything on the list above. When things have slipped, it’s been in what I believe to be the correct order. My wife and kids come before housework, for example. And my day job that is the thing truly paying the bills takes precedent over projects for professional associations or freelance writing. I’ve sometimes passed up eating and sleeping, but I’m proud to say I’ve not let personal hygiene slip!

I’m a big user of social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. I used to use LinkedIn a lot more than I do now. I still use it for maintaining a network and, let’s face it, it’s primarily  a rolling resume for most of us now. But I don’t post status updates there as much as I used to or answer questions like I did from time to time. And while I’m published once per week at the Digital Pivot blog, I haven’t published an original post here for quite a while. I just don’t have the time and something has to give.

I’ve prided myself on being able to get by on 6 hours of sleep per night with a few doses of caffeine thrown in. But lately I’ve realized that I’m not as young as I used to be and recovering from all-day and all-night binges of work and being a family man can’t be recovered from as easily anymore, no matter how many Red Bulls I have at my disposal.

So, within that context, it was interesting to read a blog post from Arik Hanson asking “Where the heck did David Mullen go?” It’s a great post asking about a guy whom we used to see all the time on social media outlets and who was regarded as a leader in that realm. The post and the comments that followed are worth taking the time to read — after all, even I found the time to at least skim most of it. I won’t repeat here what the pro and con arguments are regarding coming and going from social media as your life circumstances dictate. But I will point out that David is not the only one who has come and gone from social media and not come off the worse for wear. If you’ll recall, Shannon Paul disappeared for quite some time, but has now come back with a flourish and holds a great job heading up social media at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, not to mention her Very Official Blog. The break she took from riding the crazy train of social media doesn’t seem to have hurt her career.

We all have talents that can be put to good use on social media as well as in other areas of our lives. The problem arises when we think that one of those talents is creating more hours in a day. It can’t be done. As Scotty, the venerable engineer on Star Trek, used to say, “Ya canna’ change the laws of physics.”

No matter how much we think we are capable of doing, we are restricted to 24 hours per day in which to do it. On TV, the concept behind “24” works. Each episode was based on what occurred during a single hour in a single day. But the day was stretched out over an entire season of television and each hour seemed to be self-contained without the pressures of what didn’t get done last hour and the to-do list looming in the hour ahead.

But in real life, it’s not like that. At some point, something has to give. I suppose it’s our way of playing the director of our lives and yelling, “Cut!” So I’ve made some decisions to scale back. I’ll take baby steps at first — not posting to this blog as often was one of them. I’ve also pulled back from Digital Pivot, reducing my commitment to two posts per month instead of once per week. I’d say self-improvement time has been scaled back, but perhaps making some changes to my commitment level is a form of self-improvement, so I’ll let that one slide.

I’m not sure what else to give up yet. If you have some suggestions based on things that have worked or not worked for you, I’d be interested in hearing them. Just remember to give me some time to ease into them. After all, this concept of saying “no” is kind of new to me.

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7 comments on “24: It only works on TV

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 24: It only works on TV « Here Comes Later -- Topsy.com

  2. I don’t think anyone would ever advocate for maintaining an active social media presence 24-7. Although it is nice to have 24-7 access, it’s certainly not a mandate. In my case, I felt like the volume was turned down with all things happening online for a brief period, but I don’t think it’s fair to say I ever disappeared. I wrote a post about feeling out of the loop and felt really awkward as I tried to make my way back into blogging on a regular basis — although I think the longest period I didn’t post a blog entry was about a month and I was still pretty present on Twitter and Facebook.

    I think the question gets to be if you’re not active, how can you still stay sharp professionally. Although I don’t think the act of social networking for its own sake helps anyone stay sharp unless they’re also going through the rigors of maintaining their website, managing plugins and understanding the dynamics of traffic and how to turn that traffic into something that drives actual business value — acquisition, retention, branding, etc.

    I never consciously took a break — I kept attempting to get back in the regular swing of things and felt somehow inadequate that I couldn’t keep up appearances and my attempt to get over that feeling was to blog about it because I needed to keep up the act of publishing and maintaining my own site in order to stay sharp and try new things. My blog is what matters most — the rest is ether.

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  3. Thanks for the comment Shannon. Perhaps my saying you “disappeared” was too strong. Then again, perhaps it’s all a matter of perception. You were one of the first people I knew that was involved in social media — I was the proverbial old dog and you had the bag of new tricks. Because of that, it may have seemed to me that you were almost hyperactive on social media and blogging and so when you took even just a step back it felt to me like you were disappearing.

    Anyway you’re back and have been for a quite a while and I’ve always been impressed with you and the path you took your career down. Having known you since you were essentially an entry level PR person, I often think of you as as a great example for others. You figured out what you wanted to do with your career and made it happen, rather than waiting for something great to happen to you. A lot of folks could learn from that.

    Cheers!

    Ari

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  4. Great post Ari. I think whether you play in the social media field or not, the feeling of overwhelm is not uncommon. Having to juggle priorities and make choices about how you spend your time is a fact of life – but that doesn’t make doing it any easier.

    When I was just starting out in my career I was in such a space. Being new to the communication industry I wanted to make an impression and I thought that meant I had to be a Yes (wo)Man. Then one day, when I was up to my neck in projects and felt like screaming at the top of my lungs for the world to STOP A great friend and mentor said to me, “Nekolina, you need to say NO to one thing every day to make time for the things that really matter.”

    And this simple statement has stuck with me throughout the years.

    As you mention, saying no is not an easy thing, and for some it is a new concept. So Ari, I encourage you to start out by saying no to one thing every day to make time for the things that really matter. And remember, if you choose to say no to social media (or another ‘thing of your choosing) today, it doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to it tomorrow!

    Good luck!

    Nekolina

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    • That’s a great philosophy to have Nekolina; I’ll see if I can start with one thing each day. OK, honestly, I’ll be lucky to say no to one thing every few days given that I’m a borderline workaholic. But I promise I’ll try! Thanks for reading the post and commenting.

      Ari

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  5. Ari – i agree. It’s a constant struggle of mine to “turn off” the to-do lists in my brain, keep everything spinning and yes, stay constant in terms of my social media presence. I think that if you’re passionate about what you want to do and achieve in life, then it becomes less of a struggle and more of a trippy, wonderful balancing act. At least, that’s what I hope! Here’s a similar blog post i wrote: http://bit.ly/HCM81 – Louise

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    • Thanks for the comment Louise and for sharing your post. It was worth reading. I’m like you in that when I try not to do anything in order to relax, it’s difficult because I feel like I could or should be doing something. Maybe we’ll learn our lessons well enough to at least have a better balance from time to time. I’d be happy, and perhaps happier, with that.

      Ari

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