in personal growth

Take a Few Eggs Out of the Basket (Or Why You May Not Need What You Think You Need)

I used to wake up in the morning and the first thing I did was turn on the TV to watch Saved by the Bell. Sure, it might have been the Teen Line episode I’d seen 573…no, 574 times before – but it was part of my routine and a pretty damn good one if you ask me.

Up until recently, I’d wake up in the morning and, still tune the TV to Saved by the Bell, but I’d also grab my laptop and make my morning rounds of checking Twitter, Gmail, replying to blog comments, reading through my Google short, going through information overload before sunrise. Farr too much consumption before coffee and a shower.

After a while, and today, I’m starting to miss the old way of doing things, waking up slowly and watching Zack date that girl he met on the Teen Line only to find out she was in a wheelchair, to which Zack proceeds to make a total ass of himself, but of course, by the end credits he totally makes up for it and gets the girl (Scott Bishop – bonus points if you can give me the name of the ‘wheelchair girl’)

In short, I’ve become too dependent on my online life. Oh…ehem, “In case you can’t see my name-tag, hello everyone, my name is Matt Cheuvront and I’m a webaholic…”

“Hi, Matt”…

I remember two years ago when being online meant checking out my Facebook wall and saying Happy Birthday to people I never talked to otherwise (come on, you did it too). Now, it’s my life – I sit in front of my computer from sun up to way after sundown either working, writing, or wasting time. Maybe you’re the same way – and on behalf of all of us, I’ve got to say that this is no way to live…

If the first step is to admit you have a problem, the next one is to do something about it.

Let me preface by saying that while I’ve spent a ton of time online over the past year and a half – it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I’ve gone from working in an agency, to working outside an agency, to starting my own business, met amazing people along the way, have some amazing things in the work for the short and long term future, and right now I am living a life I would have never dreamed for myself (in a very good way).

But, through it all, I’ve been telling myself that I *need* this stuff a hell of a lot more than I actually do. I’ve been convincing myself that I MUST stay very engaged and very active in the online world to feel fulfilled and be successful professionally. In short, that simply isn’t the case.

I’ve put too many eggs in one basket – and I’m sure all of you can attest to doing this many times throughout your own life. Investing too much time into one channel, into one person, into one idea, to the point where your return on “investment” just isn’t there.

So it’s time for me to take a step back – I spoke yesterday on the importance of removing some of the “stuff” in your life and this is doing just that – no, I’m not going anywhere, no I’m not signing off from blogging or tweeting or anything like that. This isn’t some sappy sign-off. I’m still here, I’m just dramatically refocusing on what’s MOST important and I am going to limit the talking and instead focus (much) more on the doing (and there’s a lot of doing to be done).

Are you taking away as much as you’re putting in?

So my plea to you in this rant that’s gone from Saved by the Bell to webaholics anonymous meetings it to take a look at what you’re doing and consider the return on investment you have with the channels you’re invested in. Do your clients find you on these channels? Are you finding opportunities by being as engaged as you are? Are you listening and learning or just talking for the sake of contributing to the noise?

Here’s what you do. Take a step back, lighten up, spend less time on “X” channel and see what happens. Maybe you’ll miss it, both personally and professionally – maybe you DO actually need it. Then again, maybe you don’t. Maybe you won’t miss it one bit. But you’ll never know until you step out of the bubble. And the beauty part? It’ll still be around if and when you decide to jump back in.

Maybe Twitter isn’t for you. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to blog as much as you do. Maybe you should be having more face to face time and less “online” interaction – or maybe you’re spending way too much time on lunch dates and need to focus on doing better work. Whatever the case may be, don’t worry about doing something because everyone else is, or because that’s the expectation that’s been forced upon you. Nothing is forced, nothing is a requirement – you can stop and refocus right now.

Take a few eggs out of the basket and put them back into your pocket – be more selective about where you choose to invest your time. Make sure you’re REALLY taking something away from the time and effort you put in…

(Thanks to Rich, Sarah, Cali, Sam, Veronica and a few others for indirectly helping me articulate these thoughts in writing through our recent conversations. Cheers guys!)

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  1. Hey Matt!
    It's so funny but some of your thoughts echo mine exactly! I have also been in the process of taking a step back recently. Like you, not to go someplace else but to refocus and concentrate on what is important. This has helped me feel much more balanced and enjoy everything I am doing much more. I also noticed this week that my default thing to do when I get up is turn the laptop on. I don't watch 'saved by the bell' (I don't think it's on here in the mornings!) but I used to wake up gradually, talk to my hubby and maybe meditate. I have started doing that again this week and it is SO much nicer! I love being online, but I am a lot and I'm finding the way I start my day makes a big difference to the rest of it!

  2. Booya! This is exactly what I've been thinking about in the last week or so. I'm actually just in the process of writing a post on it, but somehow I got distracted by a tweet and your interesting headline, damnit! ;)

  3. Something I've been thinking a lot about myself Henri – and it seems that through many conversations I've had recently – you and I are not the only ones. I look forward to reading your post soon, make sure to give me a heads up once you've published.

  4. The first hour or so of your day is so important – it really sets the tone for the rest of the day. Instead of instantly jumping online all the time, I've been going running with my fiance, making breakfast together, and taking some time BEFORE hopping into the daily grind, rather than waking up and instantly reaching for my laptop to get online. I had convinced myself that I needed to be super-connected to the online world all the time, and put simply, that isn't the case – the ROI isn't up to what I thought it was – so today and moving forward, I'm going to focus on the more tangible things and opportunities I have in front of me.

    Thanks for the comment Jen – one of these days soon we're going to actually sit down and chat about all this!

  5. The important thing is to ask yourself who you want to talk to, and what you want to say or hear. Then choose the best method to accomplish that. When we focus on the method of communication instead of the message, we actually connect to people less, even though we may be making an electronic exchange every few seconds. If you say to yourself “I need to check Facebook” instead of “I wonder what Matt is up to today?” that's when you need to ask what you are doing and why. Focus on your priorities, just like you said. It's the only way you will accomplish the things you want to really do.

  6. I've been taking a few eggs out of the online basket lately, too. Working all day online, then coming home and blogging, and promoting the blog…I started to burn out – both at work and home. So, I've ditched a few social networks I used to be pretty active on, ditched a lot of TV time in the evenings to allow more time to think and create, focus my twitter time on the stuff that matters to ME, not what I “should” be tweeting/reading for the career…oh, and I put a BIG egg in the basket – training for a half-marathon for the first time.

    And you know what?! I haven't missed any of that online/mental clutter. I have more energy, spending an hour running every night clears more of the mental clutter and is a great way to wind down after work so that I can enjoy the couple hours of free time I have.

  7. Yep, I've dropped my laptop (not literally!) while I do other tasks. If I'm watching tv, I'm not going online to do 10 other things.

    I'm trying to do things in the moment. It's too easy to lose track and get lost in it all.

  8. This is such an important lesson that all of us need to learn at some point. We are all members of webaholics anonymous, whether we're ready to admit it or not. For a lot of us, social media is part of our professional life AND our personal life, and that just adds more eggs to the basket. I think stepping back and taking a close look at what we're putting in and what we're getting out is a great idea. We should also make sure that the version of ourselves we're putting out there is who we really are, and how we want to be seen.

    Like you said, refocusing doesn't mean signing off completely, it's just a reassessment of goals. If we get to the point where we feel like we're only tweeting and blogging because we have to, then it's definitely time to take a step back. This is something we choose to do, and we should enjoy it. Great post, Matt!

  9. Matt,

    Just to add something to this. I find that the less time I spend online the more I get done online :). I know sounds counterintuitive right. I mean the iphone has made the webaholism a bit worse for me. But, sometimes when I take off to go surf for 4 hours I'm worried about what I've been missing and usually it's not much. It's strange, but I find I'm on Facebook less and less these days. I think what it comes down to is figuring out what the most important things are and then prioritizing based on that

  10. I think goals change and I definitely weave in and out of my online life. I know some people perceive me as stuck-up because of this, but what can I do. Lately, something I've been telling those close to me and reminding myself is that we all do the best we can in any given moment. And that's more than okay.

  11. 1) Kudos on training for the half marathon. I am determined to get there myself – I have a long way to go – but I have so much respect for people who train and are able to get out there and run marathons.

    It sounds like you have achieved a lot of clarity as of late – and that's great. We tell our selves that we need things more than we actually do, and it's tough to break free of those old habits we've let run our life. If you do end up missing it, that channel will always be there for you to tap back into, but odds are, as you're proving, you might not miss it nearly as much as you think.

  12. Multi-tasking is overrated in my opinion – valuable to an extent, sure – but I'm very much a completionist – I don't like having a ton of loose ends – I like to get things taken care of as efficiently as possible and move on to the next thing. As you said, it is VERY easy to lose track of what you're doing and where you're headed if you're mind's off in a million different places.

  13. You haven't missed anything in the past four hours? You probably haven't missed anything in the past 4 weeks man. I'm seeing an extremely repetitive pattern of what people are talking about and instead of getting too caught up in the 'vicious cycle' – I'm going to commit much more time to actually getting things done.

    And you're right – stepping back from the online world can and does usually make you more productive once you jump back on the web. Being able to have that disconnect is necessary for your sanity and can really do wonders for productivity.

  14. Since this is such a big part of my professional life, I've let it seep over and take control (too much control) of my personal life – I know we all talk a lot about mixing personal and professional, and I agree that's extremely important but, equally important is knowing when to keep the two mutually exclusive. I work online, I can play online, but I need to get the heck away from this stuff more often and, you know, see daylight more than twice a week (OK, an exaggeration – but you know what I mean).

    Thanks for the comment Sam!

  15. Hey Rebecca. Thanks for stopping by. I think it's ridiculous for people to think your stuck up because you can't always make time for them, or your blog, or your Twitter profile – and at the end of the day – what you're doing is admirable and is an example for many – it's also not rocket science. You're in control of your own life, and instead of talking all the time and adding to the clutter out there, you're focused and driven toward doing what you do, and, from what I know about you, you've been wildly successful with your approach. Keep it up.

    Can't wait to (finally) chat soon Rebecca.

  16. I'm happy I got rid of Facebook over half a year ago. It was such a waste of time. I actually got it back for about 10 minutes the other day and it's like a brand new site with all its new features. I checked out some people I haven't seen in a while (by checked out, I mean 'spied' on) and then redeleted it. I agree with Srini, when I spend less time online, I get more done because I actually don't waste any time surfing.
    Also, what scared me most was that I was planning on taking a week or so off and travel round Europe a bit and found myself thinking what about emails, blog posts, etc etc, and decided maybe I should take my laptop with me. But then since I'm most likely going to be beach-bumming it in Cannes during the festival (it's mighty expensive to rent ANYTHING) I decided it'll most likely get robbed. So screw it, a week off is really going to be a week off, which is great I guess.

  17. Facebook has pretty much faded into simply a means of keeping in touch with some of those 'long lost friends', ya know? Other than the strong Life Without Pants community I've built via Facebook, I don't have much need for it either – I stop by once a day or so, but there's not much going on over in that neck of the woods that keeps me interested…

    Enjoy the week off man, I 'm looking forward to that myself in a couple weeks for my honeymoon…it's going to be glorious!

  18. Hi Matt. Great site first off.
    I've recently “unfriended” a whole load of people from Facebook – I really didn't need to know that someone I worked with 15 years ago and not had direct contact with in the meantime has just had a chicken sandwich for lunch or reached level 35 on Bejewelled! Now I just have close friends and contacts on there and purely for sharing photos and interesting updates, or maybe just messing around…. also my Blackberry has been disconnected from all data usage and is now used for – get this – talking to people on the phone!

    I'm currently trying to “re-schedule” my daily habits. I tended to get home from work, talk to wife and kids, get kids to bed, eat and then sit and watch TV for an hour or two – notice I say watch TV, not watch Lost or watch any other programme. I just watched “TV” – I may as well have stared at a blank screen for a couple of hours. Totally unrewarding and pointless and a total waste of 2 hours of precious family time. I'm going on holiday with the family next month to a cabin in the woods. I considered taking my laptop for my online fix but it's going to stay at home, closed up and powered off. I'm hoping to write – with a paper and pen, take photos and avoid TV if at all possible. That will be great for the kids too. There's a load to be said for the stuff coming up on sites like yours – it's certainly giving me a load to seriously think about. Cheers…

  19. There is a lot to think about Tim – there are a number of people who have had a really strong impact on the way I'm thinking about things lately (in a very good way).

    Also – I'm with you on the Facebook thing, I think I am going to go much more low-key with this (maybe I should start by removing the link to my account here on the blog) and keeping that space much more “personal” as it once was. I have 700 or so odd friends there, and I guarantee that I don't know 200 or so of them at all, just people who may have added me because they read my blog, but we've never had a conversation.

    Twitter is the same way – I just went through a bit of a purge there, unfollowing 50% or so of the people I was following – there's a lot of noise out there, I'd rather focus on the very strong relationships rather than clinging to the weaker ones by a thread, you know?

    Thanks for the comment sir!