Focus! It’s good for you.

Somewhat random post.  I saw a quote I’ve long loved attributed to Steve Jobs: “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”  I don’t think I can really improve on that statement. So maybe I can share what I do to stay focused.  For the free-wheeling types out there, this may seem a bit O-C, but it works for me.

I split my focus areas into four categories that I think are important:

  1. Work / Professional
  2. Family / Home
  3. Learning
  4. Health and Fitness

These are the categories that I feel are very important.  Feel free to have your own.  Many might add “spiritual”, but I lump that in with Heath and Fitness.

Within each of these categories I create 2-3 goals with some being more important than others.  For example, I’m trying to get into shape for a major bike ride this month.  I’d also like to drop a few pounds, so that’s secondary.

I won’t go into detail on how I deal weekly with the goals, since that’s not the point of this post.  What this does do, is allow me to evaluate new ideas and things I want to do.  If the idea is something already on the list, then I can do something with it.  If not, then I put it on my backlog to address in the future.

I’ve been using this technique for a few years now and it works really well.  It helps me stay focused on a few things I can accomplish, while allowing me the flexibility to change and focus on new things.  Definitely something worth considering if you feel overwhelmed or that you are having problems accomplishing your goals.


Why I Blog

I thought I’d take a bit and describe why I bother to blog (occasionally) when I could be doing something else.
There are really three reasons.
  1. I like to share things that I figure out that may not be so obvious to others.  I like to experiment and play around with technologies and when I learning something new and non-obvious it seems nice to share.
  2. It makes a great resource for me to go back to.  I’ve been asked questions about some of the things I’ve blogged about and I can point people to my blog.  Sometimes the solution to a problem is complex enough that you can’t really remember all the steps you used, esp. when you solved the problem six month ago.
  3. It’s a good form of professional self promotion.  I suppose there are some professionals out there that don’t use their blogs in part to help establish their credibility.  But I don’t think I’ve met any.  I could probably go on and on about why pros should blog, but will leave it for now.
How I pick topics
The topics I chose to blog about aren’t totally random.  Sometimes they are something new I figured out solving a problem for myself or a client.  Sometimes they happen to be about an area I want to learn more about.  And sometimes (especially lately) they are to promote my book.
The effort to blog
Blogging is not effortless.  Even a quick post, such as this one will often take an hour of my personal time.  I will organize my thoughts, put together an outline, write a draft, and then review until I’m happy.  Finally I’ll enter it into WordPress and add the appropriate links and such.
Technical blog posts can take hours or days to put together.  I have to review the topic, experiment and figure things out.  Then I can go through all the work to create a post.
What’s in it for the reader
For the reader it’s my hope that some of these my address a specific issue or open you to new ideas or ways of doing something.  But you’ll notice that didn’t make my list of why I blog.  It’s just icing on the cake if someone finds this useful.  If I only posted stuff I thought had a high probability of being useful, I’d be paralyzed and post nothing.  So I post what interests me.
Which brings me to comments
I appreciate comments, esp. those that say they learned something or found a post useful.  That provides incentive to keep posting even if it isn’t the reason I post.
I also don’t mind questions specific to the topic or pointing out alternatives or corrections.  That helps other readers as well.  And when I have the time I’ll go back and correct errors (I have the MongoDB close issue on my list).
But I occasionally get comments totally unrelated to the topic of a post and/or asking for me to help someone with something, usually involving quite a bit of work.  These I don’t care for. It’s like asking your accountant to review a financial deal in their spare time.
That hour to do a blog post?  That’s time I could be doing something fun or interesting that I enjoy.  I could be playing a game with my kids, I could be reading a good book, I could be out on my bike, I could be taking a nap – you get the picture.  So you can imagine where spending an hour or more providing free tech support to someone on my personal blog falls on the list.
Hey, that’s not very nice!
Maybe, but it’s my personal time we’re talking about, so how I choose to spend it is up to me.  I have a very demanding job, am wrapping up a book, have a ton of new things to learn, and a family I like to spend time with.  There are plenty of forums, wikis, IRC chats, Google hangouts, etc. that you can turn to for support.  Use one of those and you’ll get a slew of people ready to help out if you ask nicely (and do a Google search first).  Maybe I’ll see you on one of those and answer your question.
Thank you for being considerate.