He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.
— P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
When it comes to Twitter (and I still don’t come to Twitter that often), I’m finding, if not nuggets, at least flakes of gold. A little while ago, Harold Jarche sent this quotation: “”Information overload does not exist. Failing information strategies do exist. ”
Harold included this link to an interview with Ton Zijlstra, who describes himself as “a networked individual in a networked world.”
So, the disgruntled part first: on reading that quotation, and bits of the interview, my first thought was, “Yeah, yeah, hyperlinked, overcaffeinated.” Especially when I read, “My networking activities are a continuous thing, never really switching off.”
Let me tell you: I switch off.
But that’s not the real point. It’s easy to stay inside a comfort zone. Democrats tend not to read columns written by Republicans (except maybe to yell at them); people with school-age children find their lives centering on kids, school, sports.
So lately, when I feel far from gruntled, I’ve been trying to step back (or, if I’m getting paid, metacogitate) and explore why I feel that way. I’ve learned (more than once) that feelings are indicators of internal states, not external realities.
Zijlstra says in the interview,
My strategy to avoid overload is to embrace social media entirely. I do not watch television, don’t read any newspapers or magazines anymore, nor do I read books related to my profession; I hear it all through my networks. The authors are in my network, and I usually hear things much quicker and more nuanced. I trust my networks to give me the feedback to detect those patterns.
Well, I see newspapers, and the magazines that come here, as one more channel — more concentrated in some ways, not really a network. I don’t yet have all that much confidence that my networks include all the authors or authorities I need.
But — Zijlstra is making sense. First, he’s not telling me to be like him; he’s just sharing how he works. I took the implicit invitation and visited his blog, Interdependent Thoughts. And from there he took me to this presentation.
Slide 27 in that set is “The Tools I Use.” I like how he presents them:
- Jaiku, what I do
- Twitter, what I say I do
- Plazes, where I am
- Dopplr, where I will be
- Blogs, what I think
- …and so on.
The half-dozen or so slides after that are worth reading — an explanation of why he thinks as he thinks. One highlight (my rework of slide 36):
- More connections –> Active personal role
- More speed –> Other information skills
- More information –> Different tools and work forms
I’m still skeptical about multitasking — evolution doesn’t happen in one generation, or in five — but Zijlstra helps convince me that we can get better at task management and task switching. I know that I need to do both: control the flow (the way you’d turn off the TV or click away from breaking news) and develop the cognitive muscle to switch flexibly when I need to.
So, disgruntlement — a frown, a roll of the eyes when coming across an idea I’m quick to pass unfavorable judgment on — is becoming for me a cue to explore further. There are limits — I have no interest at all in hearing why the earth is only 6,000 years old, I lack both skill and interest for fantasy sports teams. When it comes to work and learning, though, I’m prodding myself to work at learning.
Gold-panning photo by anglerp1.