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 Reader..in 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!)