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Blog Struggles: I Just Need Two Seconds of Your Time

Blog Struggles Article SeriesHow often have you been asked for “two seconds of your time” in purpose, email, or chat? I’m asked every day for those precious two seconds, and every day I struggle to say no.

My day begins at five in the morning. I used to make time for exercise but more and more my work life creeps into those precious hours of the morning as email, Twitter, Facebook, and all my blog responsibilities demand more and more of ny time.

My day begins with checking comments across all the blogs I manage and write for. I deal with an average of 120 comments that arrive between 10 or 11 at night and seven or eight in the morning, legitimate and spam. I respond to the ones that need a response, I delete the useless comments, and mark the rest of the junk as spam. Trackbacks are checked for copyright infringements, and copy and paste cease and desist comments are left when found.

By then, the world of Twitter and instant messaging seems to know I’m online and the live chatter begins. I do my best to respond as quickly as possible, giving everyone more than the two seconds they request, as I prepare for my day’s activities and tasks. As usual, everyone wants more time than I have to give.

Email is the next wall between myself and my work. I’m usually confronted 50 to 200 new emails. While I’ve trained Gmail to sort, label, and filter as much as possible, new ones must be greeted and responded to, all those “I just need two seconds of your time” messages take five to ten minutes each. Rarely do any take less than two minutes let alone two seconds.

Through the email, blog comments, and social chat come many requests for two seconds to review, comment, and provide feedback on blogs and websites from a variety of angles. They want me to check out their designs, WordPress Themes, WordPress Plugins, articles, new technology, new social bookmarking or networking site…all demanding two seconds of my time for free feedback.

I do what I can, but lately it’s not much. The demand for those precious two seconds of free help exceeds my capacity to give it. It doesn’t help that so many expect all of my time to be given away free, and resent it when I ask them if they are asking to hire me. Sometimes it’s not clear if they want free advice or paid advice. If you ask for two seconds of an attorney or consultant’s time, you have to pay for those two seconds. So are these people asking to pay for my time, or just give it away? I have to ask, and trust me, paid advice will get my attention faster.

Along with the requests for two seconds of my time for reviews and feedback come guest blogging gig requests, interviews, memes, speaking gigs, which may or may not bring money but do require a response and more than two seconds each.

When the email pile is done, it is lunch, and I’ve yet to hit the various forums I support and respond to as many forum posts as I can. When noon arrives, I’ve still not written a single bloggy word nor peed or refilled my tea cup from the morning.

I take a very purposeful lunch to allow me to regroup and leave the computer. Sometimes that time is filled with brainlessness, watching a movie from Netflix or download, reading a book, taking a walk, working out, cleaning, or running an errand. By the time I return, the hope is that I’m calm and collected and the rest of my day that started out with intention will be filled with purposeful, task accomplishments. In the past six months, those two hours of lunch I count on as the only free time away from the computer in a long 14-16 hour day keeps shrinking and I now spend most of that time eating in front of my computer while continue to process communications.

When I do get out, I return to 30 more emails and 28 Twitters and two open chat windows waiting for my attention.

I’ve an interview scheduled for two, a demo at four, and a social business gathering at six. In between, I write when I can, call people back on the phone, and keep the flow of conversation rocking on the web that lets the world think I’m participating and active, stuffing a few dried fruits into my mouth as I race between appointments.

Even as I write this, the guilt of 150 emails still waiting in my inbox, 16 comments that still need an answer, and 6 messages on my voice mail nags me – not to mention the thirty-plus posts I have to publish every week that are slowly getting more and more behind as I feel like I’m chasing my tail.

They call what I do social media and I’m reassessing its purpose and function in my life. That social is consuming every two seconds of my life, leaving me working more than benefiting from the reward of my work. Something is out of balance.

Is the social in your bloggy life consuming your life, too?

They Do It, Why Can’t I?

I think about people who set such tremendous examples of handling massively overloaded time schedules, like Condoleezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Barak Obama, doctors, lawyers, and others who seem to cruise through their day stable and sure, their lives and time handled. Sure, they have assistants, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

The day after the election, after Barak Obama won, he got up, got his kids off to school, and went and worked out for an hour. He has time and he’s the future ruler of the United States. Conoleezza is in the Middle East on a perpetual failing peace mission, and she works out for at least an hour a day almost without fail and manages to keep up with her inbox. Oprah has her television show, television network, magazine, books to read, and classes to teach and speeches to give. And she still works out every morning.

I’m just a little ole’ blogger who works as a blog consultant and public speaker and instructor. I’m an evangelist for blogging and social media communications. But the social is overwhelming me. I know it’s just a matter of choosing your priorities, but my priority in my business is about the social. Is the social overwhelming you, too?

I’ve had a lot of non-blog friends tell me that it’s just a matter of shutting the door on the interruptions. Get focused and leave the distractions at the door. That’s nice but those distractions get rather pissed off when they don’t hear from me within those precious two seconds. I live in a business world of two second demands on my time. How do you deal with those two second requests?

Blog Struggles Series

This is one of an ongoing series of articles on blog struggles, the challenges of blogging as I see them from 15 years of experience.



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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, the author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

52 Comments

  1. Posted November 10, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t need any of your time.

    You need to take charge of your time and sometimes just say no.

    Take a vacation from it all — and don’t check in.

    Dump part of the social networking stuff if it is taking up too much time.

    Evaluate the value added. If there is very little or none, say “Sorry, guys. I just have to disengage.”

  2. Posted November 10, 2008 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    You’ve been a great help to me for the past few weeks and I think that offering only paid-consultancy would be a very reasonable thing to do.

    I know a few folks who offer hourly or per case help and are doing very well. Consultancy isn’t their core business but asking for people to pay for time spent eliminates 99% of the SPAM. It actually lets you get more quality communication as you’ve got the time for it.

    Something like “rent Lorelle’s brain” might be a hit. Anyone can pay $150 for something important. It just sets a certain bar, much higher than shooting an email. If you offer it, I’ll be your first customer.

  3. Posted November 10, 2008 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Recognizing that you, among so many others are busy, I try to keep my browsing silent and comment/email as little as possible to keep down on the chatter :-P That being said, I feel a bit guilty for contributing to those 150+ emails after I sent you one last week pointing to a blog entry I had written about Digital Fingerprint and pingbacks.

    If you haven’t gotten to it yet (recognizing belatedly that this very comment took more than two seconds to read!), don’t feel like you need to review, comment, or link to that article. It’s just an angle I thought you might be interested in, but certainly shouldn’t consume any more of your time!

    I guarantee that Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey don’t keep up with their own inboxes, and they don’t have AIM or GTalk open either… and if they do, it’s with a very, very select buddy list. They have assistants that comb the messages, respond to almost everything, and present a report each day of subject lines that might interest their employer. The employer then picks a few of those for personal responses. Maybe you should consider taking on an intern (AKA someone who works for free for job experience ;-) ) to do this kind of work.

    As for myself, I decided to cut most everything out. I try to not check email on the weekend (despite the fact that it all shows up on my phone, but unless it’s an emergency, I don’t reply). I logged off of IM for about 5 years, and only recently began using it for inter-office communication; I don’t put my screenname on any websites or forums anymore. I maintain completely separate email accounts for different purposes, because if I have it all go to the same account, even filtered in different folders, I’m going to read through a folder if I see it has new mail. By putting it out of sight, I can put it out of mind and focus. My modus operandi is one thing at a time, giving it as much attention as I can, to accomplish it well and completely. Don’t think about the bulk of the work, just focus on what’s in front of you and get it done, then move on to the next thing.

    The trouble is when you forget to go and check something :-P But a well-managed calendar can help with that. I also prioritize my time off and sleep for health reasons, but the days are unavoidable that end after 10-15 hours with the recognition that I still have a solid eight hours of work I could be doing. Days sort of like today.

  4. Posted November 10, 2008 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Years ago as a very busy minister of a growing Church…….I found my inbox getting fuller and fuller. I was a good multitasker, high functioning work-a-holic. Then I got sick. Real sick. Everything continued to pile up. Eventually I got back on the job……..looked at the inbox and preceded to dump its contents in the trash. Caught right up. Amazing. This was the old fashioned delete method.

    Sometimes we “allow” others to dictate the rules of engagement. We “allow” them to own us.

    Your non-blog friend is right…….you just have to shut the door. Not every 2 second request is worth of our time. After all we only have so many 2 second intervals before the clock stops ticking :)

    Bruce

  5. Posted November 10, 2008 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Where’re the cats? Aren’t they self-trained to sit on the keyboard? knock notes off the desk? Pitty=pat across your face when glued to the monitor?

  6. Posted November 10, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    One statement in this post jumped out at me and that was the mention of assistants – because that’s exactly how people like Oprah, Condoleeza, and Barack Obama are able to accomplish so much. They have lots of help. In fact, I think the reason those three individuals are so successful is precisely because they’ve surrounded themselves with the best and the brightest. Also, I bet they have very well-defined limitations ;)

  7. Posted November 10, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    The people you have quoted as seeming to have so much time hire people to deal with correspondence, incidentals, etc. They outsource many common tasks.

  8. Posted November 10, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Damn Lorelle, this post really highlights the time and effort that you put into your job on a daily basis. As a freelance writer, WordPress evangelist and what have you, I’m slowly but surely headed down the same road. I’m on Twitter, I do emails, I check and respond to comments, I participate in forums, I do podcasts, etc. I mean, even the weekends don’t mean the same thing as they used to (No Work). Instead, Weekends are included into our schedule as normal workdays.

    The sad thing is, if you stop even for just a moment, the social will consume you and you will never get out from under the pile. I don’t know how else you or I or anyone else is this position can deal with the problem other than setting a list of priorities and hoping that those who get pissed off can understand.

    Perhaps we bloggers should tap into the 4 hour work week and start outsourcing or petty tasks to other individuals and leave the important stuff for us to handle.

  9. Posted November 10, 2008 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Answer – assistants. I’m an Executive Assistant in my day job and I take care of tons for my bosses. They have now downsized the office and I’m the only Assistant left. I turn off AIM and Messenger – make a list and crank the work out. They can go golfing – I work (laughing). I haven’t gotten into the Twitter thing yet, and I don’t think I will because it looks like that needs immediate attention to succeed and I can’t provide that. It’s all about prioritizing your time.

    My advice, FWIW, take a deep breath, make a list, do each task, mark it off and reward yourself when it’s done, either take a walk or hoover that chocolate chip cookie. Well, not too many of those or you will have to triple your walk.

    Good luck!

  10. akismetisgood
    Posted November 10, 2008 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Good question!

    1) reading productivity blogs such as: http://lifehacker.com/ or – http://zenhabits.net .
    2) setting an hour in the night in which I turn away from my computer (22:30, in my case).
    3) rescuetime.com is a good service to keep track of what we do on the computer.
    4) shutting down messenger systems, including twitter!
    5) I am getting used to writing friends short emails saying “I wished to write to you a longer email, but I am currently swamped and will respond more in length in the future”. I WOULD like to combine this with a task system of WHEN to contact them again. but this is a big hole in my system that I’ll hopefully will find a solution to soon.
    6) my next task is integrating “remember the milk” + Gmail.

    Yours,
    Tal Galili

  11. Posted November 10, 2008 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    @ MLO:

    Yes, those people have assistants, but they still have a lot on their plate to do with or without hired help. Even with help, I don’t know how they do it all in one day. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they know that some things just don’t get done instead of trying to do it all.

    The issue is how do you juggle it all, while still making money and not giving your time away for free, when you can’t afford to hire someone. Few bloggers and writers make enough to hire someone. And I don’t have kids, except for the fuzzy ones mpb mentioned. I barely have time for a fuzzy snug. If Kohav didn’t sleep under my sweatshirt on my lap most cold days, I’d barely get any kitty loving lately. :D How do people do it all with kids added to the bundle of “stuff to do everyday” things?

  12. Posted November 11, 2008 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    I am a relatively new blogger (just past 6 months now) and it is such a relief to hear you voice these concerns.

    I don’t have tons of people asking me for my time, nor do I have tons of comments to reply to (yet), but just the time I put into research & writing posts, visiting other blogs to network, replying to the comments I do get, and trying to promote my blog just a tad if there’s any time left over each day overwhelms my world.

    I love blogging, but I’m worried that when my readership really grows, how will I have a life?

    I already find myself glued to the computer, cutting out exercise, and time outside enjoying the “real world” with friends and family. I feel your pain, Lorelle, and don’t want to be 15 years down the road at this without an answer to this problem.

    I love blogging, but it is a heavy responsibility to shoulder. I feel I “owe” my readers alot and don’t want to let them down. And I “owe” myself to do the best I can with my blog — after all, I want to!

    I’ll be interested in what others have figured out to handle the “social” (actually in my mind it’s really anti-social) part of this work.

  13. Posted November 11, 2008 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, I wondered whether I should leave a comment here – don’t want to add to your work! Fortunately I’m not in the situation you describe here, but I recognise a lot of what you write in what others have said or decisions they’ve made – to turn off comments, or to stop blogging altogether. You have my sympathies.

    I don’t know what the answer is other than a brutal focus on what matters to you. Be sure and patent the solution if you find it.

    Joanna

  14. Thera
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    You sound seriously stressed out!! Social networking leads to a lot of stress as the pressure to stay constantly in touch builds. Sometimes the chaos and clutter just needs to be shut out. There is no other way of taking time for oneself unless it is simply taken. Nothing has greater priority than ourselves. The ability to say No lies on the tip of one’s tongue.

  15. Posted November 11, 2008 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    I had to take a nap after reading the blog post. Exhausted is the word I’d’ve titled the post.

    First (hugs) to you and what you do for us out here. Those that give for free receive moocho blessings from God in many ways.

    Second – You first, we later. Take that hour a day to work-out, shop, read a trashy novel (Nora Roberts comes to mind), etc. I’m a diabetic and that puts priorities in focus because if I don’t put me first, I could die. Little strong? Yup – but something I was told a long time ago applies here: The blog (internet) won’t crash if you do for yourself and shut the door on us.

    Third I agree with someone above. One email for work, one for pleasure. When its your time, shut the work one off.

    God Bless you for what you do!

    Jo

  16. Marko
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Interesting post!

    The way I see it, it is all about return on investment. You are basically selling your time, so what you get out of your actions must be worth the while, otherwise you should stop doing it.

    Questions to ask yourself are, what is your time worth? Is spending time responding to all the small requests worth what you get in return?

    Luckily tracking is very easily done online with the different analytics and tools. So tracking and analysing what works and gives you revenue, and what does not is the way I would go. Then removing the clutter that doesn’t give you good ROI and spending the time you save on other things like personal life or increase the time you spend on stuff that does bring you good ROI.

    Marko

  17. Posted November 11, 2008 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    With 5 kids, a full-time job and a full freelance schedule, I’ve found it best to selectively tune-out things to focus on what needs done. IM, twitter and email can be extremely distracting when you have a deadline looming. Shut them off. Reset expectations with others of when you’re available to IM. Slowly ween yourself from checking your email every 5 minutes. Move it to 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, then an hour. The world won’t end and you’ll find yourself less stressed.

    And make room for life, things do happen when you’re away from the computer but the world hasn’t ended because of it. ;)

  18. Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    You should add a “Buy me a cup of coffee” or “Leave a tip” link to your blog. That way, someone who wants to speak to you has a means of paying for your attention.

    I use those facilities *frequently*. It is absolutely impossible to get a conversation with a successful online personality without tossing a couple of bucks on the table.

  19. Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Lorelle,
    I think there is no such thing as “just 2 seconds”. People say this to me when their printer is not working – “just 2 seconds, could you help me?” Eventually it took me at least 20 minutes.

  20. Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    Two things to cut out that would free up so much time are Facebook and Twitter. Seriously, 99.99% of it is just idle chatter. I don’t do Facebook anymore, and Twitter I never bothered with. Guess what? I’ve got lots of free time.

  21. Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Good post Lorelle.

    I’m a freelancer with kids and a personal blog. I find that keeping up with blogs and podcasts is enough. I don’t IM, Text or Twitter…as a matter of fact, my cell phone is going bye-bye as soon as the contract expires. That may be a little extreme, but it’s the only way I feel I can keep a handle on real life (as opposed to spending all my time in a virtual one).

    To focus on work that pays and to ensure that I have time for my husband and my kids (and knitting) lots of good blog posts have been delayed, set aside indefinitely, or dumped. To help ease the guilt that comes from refusing to be all things to all people (writer, blogger, mom, wife, house CFO/CEO/COO) I have combined two useful equations that I now use to rule my life ‘time is money’ and ‘you don’t miss what you don’t see’ (you know, the one about taking your savings out of your check automatically so you adjust to less take-home pay…or like the guy who dumped his inbox, above). I have found that I don’t miss the time/money sucking activities that I have ‘taken out’ (i.e., never started using in the first place or simply resolved to give up). I have found that most don’t add to the quality of my life or provide enough benefits to my career to make them worthy of my time.

    Perhaps a moment to breathe and re-evaluate which really help you and which don’t? And a moment to set up some polite auto responses? And a few moments to see if you and some of your busy colleagues would benefit from a virtual intern/assistant time-sharing type arrangement? Consider while knitting…knitting helps you think. :)

  22. Posted November 11, 2008 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    This post made me smile and thought it somewhat ironic on my 25th birthday to have some of the same feelings. Business is taking off, work is piling up, and there seem to be more demands on my time. I haven’t had the time to post to my blog nearly as often as I would like. This year has been my first for blogging, and it has gone well for me.

    My words of advice are for you to sit down, turn off the distractions, and re-evaluate your different activities in social networking. As a PHP Programmer who has done some work with Open Source Projects (like WordPress), there is way more work available to do than I could possibly handle. I could spend every waking moment programming for projects, and never be done, ever. I’ve decided an amount of time to dedicate to the Open Source world a week, and a donate it, but I’m strict on managing that time. Social media is the same way, only worse. ;) There is an astronomically huge difference between the amount of available content, and even *useful* content for you, than a single person could possibly read & interact with.

    I think you identify your challenge when you said “[...] those distractions get rather pissed off when they don’t hear from me within those precious two seconds. I live in a business world of two second demands on my time. How do you deal with those two second requests?” Here are my thoughts:

    1) Set Realistic Expectations – An example would be twitter. Try stating in your bio that you use “twitter” to “tweet” with the community, but important queries should be directed to your blog/email. That way if you don’t monitor twitter for a few days, and someone tweets you, they shouldn’t be made if you don’t respond. Even if they do get “pissed off,” is that the type of person you *want* to be interacting socially with? I honestly think that is very unrealistic, just because you’re a professional blogger in social media does not mean you’re a non-sleeping robot to reply to every single request.

    2) Set a “Social Media Schedule” – Maybe you say “I’ll twitter for an hour, I’ll check comments every day at X, Y, and Z time.” Also, like you’ve made a sacred lunch time for you, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, maybe you need to start and end your day that way as well. Before your day starts, maybe exercise or read. Then, make sure you’re not twittering until you fall asleep, but set aside time before heading to bed. Hopefully starting and ending your day “in control” will help with feeling overwhelmed.

    3) Prioritize – I know this is 1000 times easier said than done, but think of it this way. Each of your clients could really use advice on how to manage & prioritize their social media time. I personally can’t hire 20 people to re-tweet, respond, and blog about every possible thing. I want to know how to do it the most efficiently with limit resources of time. They don’t want to be drowning in the massive ocean of social media, only to see their consultant drowning as well. ;) They want to see her on her successful sailboat navigating the social media seas, ready to show them the way. :)

    Good luck, and thank you for *your* time you share with us. I enjoy reading your blog, and appreciate the effort you put into it. Hopefully we’ll run into each other again, maybe at LT Pact ’09. :)

  23. Posted November 11, 2008 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I’ll give you some advice from an Executive Assistant. The folks you mentioned, Obama, Rice, et.al., they don’t have just one assistant. They have a team of them to keep them organized. You don’t even have one. It’s not surprising that you are overwhelmed.

    I’ll tell you what I’ve told the executives I’ve worked for. You have to take some time without interruptions. If something is so urgent it can’t wait, it shouldn’t be in an e-mail. Put one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon to just work on what needs to be done.

    Work on e-mail once a day for an hour, and let the rest go. You do not have to answer every single e-mail that you get immediately. If necessary, set up an auto-responder thanking people for their e-mail but stressing that you get a large volume of e-mail and you may not be able to respond immediately. Then set up a folder for ones that you’d like to respond to when you have time and dump everything that doesn’t absolutely have to have an immediate response in there. Set up some template responses for things like, I love your blog, and could you give me some free advice (the first with a nice thank you and the second with, sorry, this is my job and I must be paid, polite but firm).

    Ideally, you’d have an assistant to help you with those rote kind of tasks, but since you don’t, automate them as much as possible, and push off a lot of those 2 second requests that people don’t realize takes 5 to 10 minutes minimum for you.

  24. Posted November 11, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    @ Linda Abbit:

    I’m glad you are “getting” the point of these posts in my Blog Struggles series. It isn’t just about me whining, but about you understanding that there are responsibilities that come with the “fun” of blogging. As everyone here is saying, you have to make choices, and some of those choices mean turning things off, and others mean making enough money to hire someone to help. As you are finding out, it’s hard to make enough money to share it with others when you can barely keep up with what you have.

    The “owing our readers” mentality is part of the puzzle. The obligation towards the social web is another. People expect us to be on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook, and the rest. They expect us to give advice away free. They expect us to respond to their comments, emails, tweets, and the rest.

    Who set up this expectation that bloggers had to be all things to all people? We did. Now it’s time to do something about it.

    What do we do? I’m still listening and debating.

  25. Posted November 11, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Nice post! I use Yoga. (4 Seconds)

  26. Posted November 11, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Oprah, Obama, Condoleeza have more than just assistants… they have an entire staff of people devoted to keeping their boss organized and on task. There is a big difference there. If I had even just one person who vets my e-mail, answers the stuff that they are able and forwards the ones they can’t answer to me – – that would make a huge difference. Wait a minute…I do have an assistant who does those things for me. Hmmm…maybe I need two? :)

    As much as I would love to give free advise constantly, my sanity cannot afford it. I started out my blog life doing just that and I quickly learned that 24 hours a day isn’t nearly enough to keep everyone happy. Once I started picking and choosing how and when I would give freely … people stopped expecting it and I stopped putting pressure on myself to provide it…and, my world didn’t fall apart because of it. I stopped being the ‘go to’ person in my own circle – and yes there were consequences, but they were ones that I could completely live with if it meant maintaining my sanity and peace in my own little world.

    I quickly realized that I don’t *need* to be omnipresent on the web. If people wish to seek me out, they know where they can find me..if not, they can google it. I don’t expect a constant presence of the people I work and socialize with and feel they should not expect it from me, either. Some people have called it apathy. Some have called it antisocial. I call it mental survival.

    In return, I respect a person’s space. I don’t submit support requests via Twitter. I don’t leave requests for interviews on their Facebook. I don’t seek out speaking opportunities by leaving a comment on their blog. I’ll fire out an email and wait for an answer. Call me old fashioned.

    That being said, your days sound much like my own. Mostly, I just say no to trying to keep up with what’s going on on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk or any other social outlet on the web – or else I wouldn’t have those two seconds in my day to pick my nose, if I needed to (not saying I pick my nose…but ya know..) I participate when I can….I don’t when I can’t. It’s that cut and dry for me…no real grey area there.

    Me = social media FAIL … I’m ok with that. :)

    Good luck, Lorelle – taking care of you should be job number one.

  27. Posted November 11, 2008 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    I endorse all the comments about the assistants/teams of people screening/responding and generally making sure that busy people don’t have to deal with all their own emails.

    Ditto re the different emails for different purposes.

    I’m really enjoying life since I my computer decided it didn’t like the email alert any more and switched it off – it’s so much easier to get things done when you aren’t instantly responding to other people’s timescales and agendas.

    I don’t twitter – simply because I don’t want to be writing a post like yours. I gave up Facebook as it seemed to involve an insane amount of useless trivia.

    Who says that the social networking model has to be the same for everybody? We’re all individuals with our own unique characteristics. We all socialise in different ways. Some people allow comments and some people don’t. Some people blog, some people don’t (any more). Some people twitter and……..you get the picture.

    My inclination is to ask you
    (a) what gives you most value?
    (b) where can you best add value?
    (c) what proportion of your day do you actually spend on those activities?
    (d) how can you free up more time to spending more time on getting and giving good value?

    I think you probably just need some more active filters set up. Plus maybe stop being so polite? How about setting up:
    – a ‘tell me about’ email which gets an instant response that you read but never reply unless you want more info
    – a ‘quickie’ consultancy service where somebody can buy 15 or 30 minutes of your time. Give examples of the sort of things you can do in those time slots so that people don’t ask for the moon and expect you to deliver in 15 minutes. Indicate the sort of timescale they should expect before they get an answer – and don’t create expectations of a quick response. There’s a lot of people who email when they should be reading.
    – a “Please Lorelle can you…?” email where people can send you requests for help for anything more involved or invitations to speak etc – which gets an acknowledgement response and links to more information they need to know before they pursue their request any further.

    I used to have a boss who didn’t reply to any email on the basis that only those which were important would chase him up. He assured me it worked like a dream. His PA told me that was because she sorted out all the important stuff……….

  28. Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Lorelle, for spending your precious time on replying to me, a newbie in this wonderful world of blogging! I truly appreciate it!!

    I’ve thought about what the comments have been, and since I’m not at the stage where I can hire an assistant, I think I will make a choice to focus on one, and only one, social networking tool for my blog. I’ll have to decide if that will be Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed or StumbleUpon, based on where I believe my market participates most. (Note to self: figure that part out! Maybe I’ll just guess to save time. LOL)

    It’s a start to keeping the load lighter.

  29. Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    this from Slashdot seems relevant

    “Re:I miss my pager all the time.”
    by RustinHWright (1304191) on Tuesday November 11, @05:23AM (#25718081)
    ,,,I’m *hoping* that some time this spring I’ll be able to build some interlocking system using all three [phone devices] that manages to do an almost passable job of providing the kind of gatekeeper and message pre-sorter functions that I took for granted long about ’95.

    … I’ve long been saying that we’re going to see the return of the human secretary. My friend used to argue fiercely for technological fixes like agents and groupware but as the years pass he’s coming around.

    Personally I think that much of what we’re talking about here is about judgement. And in a world of accelerating change, there will always be a lag for entrepreneurs in trying to make any expert system understand the nuances that a typical fifties secretary could handle just fine before her coffee with half of her attention. Some of this will probably be outsourced to people in places like India but I’m betting that groups like physically disabled workers or those looking for telecommuting options right here in the developed world will work out just fine for most of us who really need it.

    Frankly, I don’t know about y’all but I’m trying out a new assistant on Wednesday. I’ve been a geek for going on thirty years and afraid some jobs are just not best addressed with technology.”

  30. FreelanceVenue
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    We’re in the same boat! If only time can stand still for just a moment!

  31. Posted November 12, 2008 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    I empathise with you as I often feel the same way; having a full time job, start up business (for when job gets finally off-shored forever) and family commitments. I get up at 6:30 to walk the dogs before going to day job and rarely call it a day before midnight. Through my holidays I work on my business and am now helping my wife get a website/blog up and running. There just never seems to be enough hours in the day.

    However you must stick with your training plan it is part of sharpening the saw – it one of the seven habits of highly effective people.

    It is tough not replying to every email especially when they’re personal friends. You need to be clear that you cannot respond to every incoming message. Perhaps you could use them for ideas for future blogs and answer indirectly – at least then you’re productive and kill two birds with one stone ;-)

  32. Posted November 12, 2008 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    …whenever I am working on something be it a bloggy or designy thingie, I let my Messenger Apparatus auto reply that “mpty is really really busy, got your message, and will be at your service ASAP”

    Biologically or Reality related Distractions that need two seconds have my cellphone number which is super ultra secret :P

  33. Posted November 12, 2008 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Signal to Noise Ratio & Shannon’s Law (or Shannon–Hartley theorem as it has now become) – it’s even a scientific theory.

    How should social networkers cope/deal with the implications? Well – you have just got to develop more efficient filters and ways of identifying ‘Signal’ and ‘Noise’ – but you are right to say that those people who end up being classed as ‘Noise’ makers are often less than happy about it, and will usually resort to an ‘A.P.B’ approach to get your attention, and so the ratio tips in favour of noise even further.

    I was recently promoted to ‘Online Community Manager’ for the company I work for, which is more about the whole Social Media thing, rather than ‘communities’ per-se.

    The biggest challenges I face are keeping track of all the threads, communications and trains of thought – essentially trying to sort out the signal from the noise is just the first step – what do you do when you are overwhelmed by ‘signal’ ??. I tend to just go with my gut, and pursue the things I feel are important (within reason of course – I am employed full-time, so I don’t have anything like full autonomy).

    I have only recently found time to actually put into practice what I preach and start using my personal blog, which was previously just a testing ground for plug-ins for blogs at work!

    There have been some good suggestions above, especially the one recommending the reading of zenhabits… be sure to check out the latest post ;-)

    Anyway – good luck with your battle, and thanks for posting – it is really useful to see where the issues might be in the near future if I carry on immersing myself in social media and blogging!

    I am off to read the other ‘blog struggles’ now :)

  34. Posted November 12, 2008 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Charles de Gaulle never blogged, but he did radio broadcasts, ran a country, and almost single-handedly kept the notion of France alive after 1940. He said, “The cemeteries are full of indispensible men.”

    Hillel the Elder never blogged, either, but posed three useful questions: “If not for myself, who is for me? If for myself alone, who am I? If not now, when?”

    I don’t have any real solutions for you, though I expect doing what you’re doing now, but somehow more efficiently, is an illusion. The channels you mention (email, Twitter, comments) are streams; the flow isn’t going to diminish, and so you have to let them flow past.

    Your reputation is such that someone who’s determined to reach you will persist; those looking for freebies will give up after two or three attempts.

    You might even consider a form-letter email replay (that you could, if you chose, customize). “Thanks for thinking of me with regard to X. My schedule right now is such that I can only take on projects for hire. I’d be happy to offer an initial consultation for $Y…”

    Cordial but direct. If someone has the gall to protest the concept or the fee, no doubt they can find someone else to work with who better suits their requirements.

    You need to enjoy what you’re doing if you want to keep doing it. Giving up exercise to do Twitter chores would not, for me, be enjoyable.

    (And with that, I have to take myself to the gym…)

  35. Posted November 12, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Hope my client’s don’t see that I am here instead of “THERE”. Sneaking in a comment or two on blogs. I should fire the guy that writes mine. He is saying he doesn’t have the time.

  36. Posted November 13, 2008 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    @ Dave Ferguson:

    That’s true, and Napoleon was famous for letting correspondence sit for weeks at a time after it had also traveled for weeks or months to get to him. He figured that if the problem wasn’t solved by the time he got it, it wasn’t worth his time to solve with a reply that would take weeks or months to get back to the person with the problem.

    Sometimes, I wish that I could do that…and sometimes I do. :D

    So how do you do it all? Do you do it all? That’s what I want to know from everyone. How do you do it all? Can you? Should you?

  37. Posted November 13, 2008 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    This post makes me feel very guilty, Lorelle. I’m sorry for those times when I emailed you for help promoting certain charities or causes. I will learn from this and target my future emails to only those who are able to help me, instead of those whose help I would like to get.

  38. Posted November 13, 2008 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, doing it all is a myth, like multitasking. We just don’t have the mental bandwidth even to write email while talking on the phone. You know this is true; you’ve been on the other end of a conversation full of those half-second gaps.

    The gaps are caused by task switching, as the brain shifts from doing email to doing phone. We can get more flexible at the switching, but evolution doesn’t change in a single lifetime, so we’ve each got all the short-term memory we’re going to have.

    The only way to do it all is to redefine “all” for yourself. “Everything that comes up” is not a good definition. “Everything that’s work” isn’t that great a definition for me — a part gets left out, as in James Oppenheim’s poem and the spirit of the 1912 strike by textile workers in Lowell, Massachusetts:

    Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
    Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

    So maybe the definition of “all” is your Recommended Daily Allowance of both bread and roses.

  39. Posted November 13, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been stressed out by too many “demands” as well, lately. Last night was the icing on the cake. I’d upgraded WordPress for a client and installed several SEO plugins and done general tutoring. Based on the nature of his blog and, for some reason, I’d even told him to NEVER keep personal information he wasn’t willing to share with the world stored on his server.

    His blog functioned perfectly at 5:00 p.m. By 7:00 p.m., when I’d already put in a full day, I was being e’mailed bombed and the phone was ringing off the hook with calls from him. A personal diary he’d never intended to share with the world was showing on his blog, with calls to his “private” folder.

    Suddenly, all this was supposed to become _my_ problem. I was screamed at, and told to fix it. I fixed the problem for the (now ex) client as a kindness, since he was in such distress. But, you know what? It really made me think about what I’m willing to put up with in the way of clients, their requests, and the types of work I’m willing to take on.

    I’ve begun pruning my client list. The screamer was told last night after I fixed his blog not to contact me again. Another client – who pays me for advice but then resists every change – was let go today. If you want them, you can have them! ;-) But me? I’m sticking with clients who have realistic goals and who don’t consume all of the two seconds of my life. Who pay promptly. Who don’t scream.

    I started blogging for fun. It hasn’t been that much fun lately, because I was taking care of everyone but myself. Fortunately, I’ve never been a big fan of instant messaging, or of Twitter. I don’t plan to start now. It’s 5:10 p.m. Finally, I got to blog today. I worked with clients I like. I got things accomplished. Quality, not quantity.

  40. Posted November 13, 2008 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    (((Hugs))) to you Lorelle,

    I don’t know how you do it, either. Myself, I know I only have 24 hours in a day (less sleep time) and I do what I can, the best I can. Other than my home life and full time job, my blog is number one and that means writing and taking care of my comments. If I have time left over I visit the bloggers who support me. Emails often wait. As for social networking, I do little to none. I think back to why I started blogging and it was to try and help others. If I spread myself so thin that I can’t do that, then all is lost.

    As I was reading your typical day, I thought to myself, if this is what it means to be a “problogger”, I’ll have to pass. It also opened my eyes to what others go through when they become popular in blogosphere and it taught me to have compassion and to limit requests of others time.

    I think I need to send you the sign I have hanging in my office. It reads:”NOTICE: A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part!”

    BTW: If I lived a little bit closer, I’d come and help you for free. :-)

  41. Posted November 13, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    @ pelf:

    Oh, this is good, my friend. Excellent lesson!

  42. Posted November 13, 2008 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    @ Barbara Swafford:

    Ah, shucks! You are the best, Barbara. We have GOT to get together soon as we are practically neighbors!

  43. Posted November 14, 2008 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I read a lot about people who tie themselves to a ton of blogs. But what is the purpose? I’m not talking about 3 or 4 of varying interests. But I’ve seen people with over 50 blogs. That just seems crazy to me.

    And reading about your schedule, were it mine, I’d have the gun cocked and next to my head. Maybe you and others need that pressure to get by, but seems like you’re missing a lot in life.

    Milford

  44. Posted November 20, 2008 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Great post, Lorelle :)

    I’m not even close to the level that you’re at, but I can certainly empathasize. It’s been three years now since I was a full-time college athlete, and working out is still super important to me, but lately I’ve begun to feel like all I do is work because my company downsized and now I’m the only employee left. I was becoming miserable because I would end up missing opportunities to go for my runs so that I could sit at the computer instead. But now, I’ve realized that when something is really important to you (i.e. my health and sanity- lol) that you’ve got to make a change. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been forcing myself to leave the work for an hour and go for a run. It has been such a tremendous help. I come back feeling refreshed and ready to focus; hopefully this will last :)

  45. Posted November 20, 2008 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    There comes a time when you have to delegate. Sounds like you’re there. Hugs and prayers and you decide whether to find a helper or scale back!

  46. Posted November 21, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Can I take 2 seconds of your time to …
    say thank you for all that you have done to inspire and educate?
    Oh and to thank you for taking in a virtual stranger in need and…
    to thank you for making me laugh, wonder and think?

    Oops my time is up unless you are a speed reader!

  47. Posted November 22, 2008 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    @ Bean:

    Bean, for you, I always slow down. Thanks for the very kind words! You are my inspiration and motivation.

  48. leanandgreen
    Posted November 22, 2008 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read all the comments so this may be a repeat … but to me some activities are an investment of time … they include prayer, making love and working out. These activities take a lot of time but always seem to pay me back with even more time. So I try to put them at the highest priority in my life.

  49. Posted November 23, 2008 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    This post keeps returning to the forefront of my brain over the last couple of days. My first take on the post was stress from juggling so many responsibilities and interests. Even Fairy Blog Mothers need time for a cup of tea and to pet a cat. Because I value you and what you do, my immediate reaction was to respond with appreciation and a pinch of humor. I may be poor in terms of money but I am rich in appreciation!

    The last couple of days my brain keeps burbling on the concepts of appreciation and value. This morning I came across this post, What You’re Thinking What Chris Brogan Said and a Contest.

    What hit me in the forehead was Liz placing a value on her consultation services. I thought if I really wanted to do something right and HIRE Lorelle to help me with my blog, what services could she provide and at what cost? Your humor and kindness are invaluable and I can “pay” you with appreciative comments but what if I want you to provide feedback on themes or advice on plug-ins or consultation on social networking. I did a quick poke around your site here and I saw tons of examples of your expertise and what you do but I couldn’t quickly find away to find out how much it would cost me to have two minutes of your time.

    I believe in rewarding our leaders and teachers for sharing their expertise. How do individual bloggers acknowledge your expertise in a ways that make mortgage payments more comfortable? Part of my belief in acknowledgment and appreciation, is that it doesn’t always have to be financial in nature.

    How can I, as an individual blogger, express my appreciation for what you do for me as an individual? How can I support you to give you the time and peace of mind to savor that cup of tea, to take that walk, to soak in the hot tub serenaded by the sounds of the woods at night?

    OK, this time I KNOW that it will take you longer than two seconds to read this comment! :-P

  50. Posted November 24, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    @ Bean:

    Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate the support and encouragement, in any means, financial or otherwise. And if you or anyone else is in a giving mood, I do have an Amazon Wishlist that needs granting. :D

    I’ll have a follow up on this post soon with some great insights that I’ve gotten from everyone. Thanks so much for the fabulous input.

  51. Posted December 1, 2008 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s true that outsourcing to an assistant definitely helps and I see many have already made that suggestion. In addition to the challenge of not being able to afford to hire it out, there are a couple other obstacles.

    1. Some things you just almost have to do yourself.
    Unfortunately there are things we do on a day to day basis that you can’t really write a ‘spec’ sheet on to have someone handle for you.

    2. Let’s face it- most of us tend to be control freaks when it comes to our own blogs, content and websites. It’s one thing to hire someone to design some graphics, write code etc. But someone else communicating for us is another thing entirely.

    One suggestion for you Lorelle that has worked out well for me…

    Have you thought about bringing on an intern?
    The intern relationship may be a better fit for you then a true assistant or outsourcing.

    This would be someone that shares some of the same interests and passions as you do and would love the opportunity to work with someone with your background and experience.

    Interns tend to work for the experience vs a paycheck. This could offer you an affordable solution where you could slooowly start letting go personally of some of those obligations.

    Hope that helps :)

  52. Francesca
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    First of all, I’d like to thank you, Lorelle, for your hard work on this and other blogs. I think that you are already giving out more than your fair share of advice via this blog and your contributions on other blog, so it would never dawn on me to contact you asking for “2 seconds of your time” expecting you not to charge me for the extra piece of advice.

    However, I was wondering whether there are recurring questions you keep being asked. If so, wouldn’t it be an option for to compile a FAQ list that you can post on your blog(s) and use as your signature in emails, and that you can refer people to? Though you would have to put some time in compiling it, but it could work in making the requests for help your receive dwindle a little bit.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] who’s still awaiting a response. I admit that I was feeling overwhelmed until I came across this perspective-inspiring post from Lorelle, professional blogger and apparently all that running a large blog entails. I envy the fact that [...]

  2. [...] Blog Struggles: I Just Need Two Seconds of Your Time is a look at the demands of social media on our time, when everyone wants just two free seconds of your time that never is just two seconds. Are you being overwhelmed by the social of the web? [...]

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