How I get myself back on track

, ,

So, I guess I took a week off from my blog in order to launch my company. It wasn’t planned that way, believe me. Every day I told myself that I’d blog the next day. Surely many of you know this feeling. The feeling of having been lied to. By yourself.

When I am sucking at my job, the usual problem is a slowdown in my ability to process information. In general, I’m fast. I am pretty sure that most people who read blogs are faster than the general population at processing information. I have no research to prove this, but I do notice that when I recommend to people that they read blogs, people often say that it’s too much information to process.

So, anyway, the times that my information-processing ability slows down is when there’s a wrench in my system. Like launching a new company. When I noticed that I’m drowning in my job, here are things I do to try to get on top of the information flow:

1. Model myself after my information-processing idols.
Example: Gina Trapani, of Lifehacker fame, once told me that on days she’s behind she deletes all the day’s feeds from the 100+ blogs she keeps track of. Her ability to delete inspires me. I started deleting stuff.

2. Look for shortcuts.
I am usually really good at reading a wide range of blogs. But I deleted everything new that came in this week. And then I got nervous that it is lame to spew new information if I am not taking in new information.

And then I found out about Guy Kawasaki’s new site, Alltop, which is great for spinning through a lot of good blogs quickly. I found the site because Guy asked me which career blogs I like. And then, nearly overnight, he launched—a list of links from the biggest career blogs—and you know how I know Guy knows which blogs are good? Because my blog is in the number-one spot :)

3. Have a fit.
Then I went to Philadelphia, to convince a software developer that his current job is a dead end and he should work at my company. And while I was there my computer broke. And I couldn’t check email. Or blogs. Or deal with

So I called Ryan and told him to change our financial projections to include $150,000 this year to make sure that my computer doesn’t break. And I told him to spend another $200,000 to buy me a Blackberry and a Blackberry specialist to travel with me everywhere I ever go so it never breaks.

Then I ordered room service—you know, pizza and ice cream for $50 plus tip? And I have to say the room service order definitely made me calm while I was on the computer in the hotel lobby checking my email. So maybe the key to being a good information synthesizer is an all-out fit with an ice cream chaser. Because look, I blogged. And I think I’m back on track.

27 replies
  1. Tiffany Monhollon
    Tiffany Monhollon says:

    I hadn’t heard of AllTop yet, but one of my blogs is listed there too. So thanks for the tip. I have a hard time balancing the stuff in vs. stuff out too, so it’s always nice to have new tools and ideas to keep on track. Nice to have you back!

  2. Miriam Salpeter
    Miriam Salpeter says:

    Glad you’re back on track, Penelope!

    I am a big fan of ice cream to solve problems, as long as it is chocolate!

    I’m sure we’ve all been in a position where we felt overwhelmed and stuck. There’s so much to do, but getting there seems as difficult as getting chewing gum out of your toddler’s hair.

    My friend and life coach Cindy Petersiel ( recently introduced me to the term “chunk it down.” The idea is to break jobs down into manageable parts that take less time and energy to solve.

    I recently tried “chunking down” a project I couldn’t get myself to finish. Ironically, just convincing myself that I didn’t have to do the whole thing somehow opened doors of creativity that had been locked for weeks! When I didn’t expect to finish the task, it somehow got done in record time :-)

    Miriam Salpeter

  3. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    This is a task that I am bad at…I am the type of person that needs to get it done the way I want it done, which is usually 12 degrees passed what is actually expected. This is why I seldom feel “on top” and it wears on a person. My best days are when I think I am drowning and someone says to me, “This is great, thanks for doing this” without even thinking I was half done. This is probably my biggest weakness…

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    A ‘broken’ computer and it’s time to panic complete with virtual disconnect and meltdown. Sadly I have progressed to that reliance on computers also. What to do? Carry two computers with you while traveling and you can skip your upper body workouts at the gym. Well at least the phone still worked!

  5. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    Here’s a traveler’s tip: Store all your logins and instructions in one place (a private personal wiki, for example). Then all you have to do is remember one login. From there, you can log into webmail accounts, manage your blogs, and do everything else you need, even if you have to work from a computer in your hotel’s business center.

  6. Mike Sansone
    Mike Sansone says:

    Perfect timing for me. Love the Delete and Shortcuts. I need to find the time to have a fit:-)

    It’s amazing how energizing the delete key can be – once you overcome the hesitation to push it. Thanks for catapulting me into a rhythm.

  7. thom singer
    thom singer says:

    Sometimes you have to have a fit. Ahhhh, so true. Just don’t make it a habit or you become the one known for always having a fit.

    I like the “delete stuff” advice…but not sure I could do it without getting more stressed out. I think I will try it this week.

  8. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    Don’t order room service. Get out and walk to store. The fresh air, snack and money saved will be more refreshing.

  9. Chris
    Chris says:

    An alternative to Delete is Mark as Read. Why?

    Well, it’s highly likely that the blogs you’ve subscribed to have a high information value. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean that the blog contents are going to devalue in information content (unless all the blog authors you subscribe to have an equally bad day/week/month).

    A good RSS aggregator is also going to offer decent search. Mark as Read allows you to perform a catch-up cycle so you can feel like you’re back on top (an illusion really), while still allowing you to search across your valuable information sources when you’re looking for research material – another good reason to ignore partial RSS feeds in favour of full RSS feeds.

  10. Milena
    Milena says:

    I seriously don’t understand the Blackberry or computer expenditures? Could you elaborate? Maybe you need to hire a financial advisor…

  11. Gloria
    Gloria says:

    Why not just make a decision this week to focus on the new company and not expect yourself to be able to post regularly in such a week. As for the fit – totally get it, it works for me all the time, usually not in hotels rooms but when things are too much to cope with – a fit can do wonders to balance the pressure.

  12. Mohamed Shedou
    Mohamed Shedou says:

    I don’t dare to delete the blog posts I missed. Just two days ago I had more than 200 posts I didn’t read. I thought of deleting and starting fresh! For some reason I started to do the opposite, read them fast so I can start fresh. I didn’t finish em all, but I am going through and quickly reading all missed posts. I’d say a better approach is just to quickly go though them, and read what seems interesting. Soon we’d ba back to zero unread, waiting for the new ones!

  13. François
    François says:

    Who the hell is Ryan? Why the hell pay 350k?

    I feel this blog was a tad little on the personal side, and couldn’t extract much information from a rather good-sounding title.

    Maybe you should have gotten a little *more* on track before writing this post… take it easy, alright?

    And thanks alot for the alltop link!

  14. Ben Overmyer
    Ben Overmyer says:

    Want to try a new tactic for getting back on track? Try resetting.

    Reset, (v): To delete one’s entire inbox, all new blog feed updates, turn off one’s computer, and take a day to go sit by the lake.

    You’d be surprised how liberating (and terrifying) this can be.

  15. Sidney
    Sidney says:

    Francois and Milena,

    I believe Penelope was being sarcastic with her computer expenditure paragraph.


  16. David Cox
    David Cox says:

    I don’t really agree with the ‘Delete everything’ option. I was a few days behind in reading my subscriptions and just got to this article. If I’d deleted it, I would have missed out this information!

    I did…however…delete many other unimportant e-mails.

  17. Neuromancer
    Neuromancer says:

    Cool Penelope so you want a Guitar Tech(high end roadies) but for It.

    Ill Practice the 1000 yard stare brummie accent and the war stories "I rember the time some bugger hacked Prince Phillips account :-)

    you sort out the green card mkay :-)

  18. Milena
    Milena says:

    @ Sidney – Hmm, yes, I suppose you are right. I’m extremely gullible and rarely get jokes other than my own which no one else finds funny. But in my defense, you never can tell with Penelope when she’s being hyperbolic or for real…I mean, just a few posts ago she said she stabbed herself in the head, and she’s still kicking, so I guess I shouldn’t take what she says all that seriouly.

  19. karen
    karen says:

    Congrats on launching. Excited to hear more and check it out…

    1. I emailed my speakers for my conference this week and was surprised at an email I received back saying one person was out of the office for the week and if it was urgent, contact so-and-so. But get this…the last line said, “Also, because of the volume of email I receive, I’ll be deleting what comes in over the week, so please email me fresh on Monday.” BRILLIANT!!! I suggest everyone do this while on vacation. **I LOVE lifehacker!*

    2. Found Alltop a few weeks ago. The Guy Kawasaki is brilliant. I hope to meet him someday.

    3. Computers are great until they break. And if you’re serious about a Blackberry specialist, let me know. I may be interested. =)

  20. Brady Bagwan
    Brady Bagwan says:

    Delegation is the other part of the equation. For those that don't have a staff, who do you delegate to? One way to overcome this is to use a personal assistant service. I just started a company called Delegate Source based in Denver. While there are quite a few concierge services out there, there are very few who approach lifestyle and household management broadly. It really is simple math. If a professional’s hourly cost is more than the cost of outsourcing personal services, why not achieve a better work/life balance by delegating errands and tasks?

Comments are closed.