Last couple of weeks I did an experiment. I had big pieces of work (mainly PhD-related thinking and writing) and lots of small things for a variety of tasks. I decided to postpone starting work on big pieces and to focus on all the small things, so I could get them out of my way.
Somehow it didn’t work. Doing small things was painfully slow and was frustrated as well since I tried not to get into a bigger work. I guess the main reason that those “big tasks” are really important to me, so they were “hanging in the background” anyway and eating my energy as I didn’t give them a space to grow.
Blogging has a role in it. It’s a long time since I think about blogging in a frame of urgent/important matrix by Stephen Covey. It’s easy to be “too busy” to work on important things when everyday urgent stuff piles up and requires its share of attention. In this case blogging creates a legitimate space for important.
There are two sides of it, reading and writing.
Reading weblogs as a way for prevention, preparation, relation and expertise building. It’s like everyday exercise to stay fit – knowing what is going on, what are the trends, who are the people. It may feel as not very important in everyday scale, but everytime when I face a new big challenge I appreciate it – like appreciating everyday exercises and being fit if time comes to run for your life.
Reading is also about taking time to develop ideas (I often think of “being pregnant with ideas” :), having time to explore, bit by bit, creating a space for emergent connections and associations. This is where writing comes into play* as well.
For me writing is about catching ideas on the fly, growing and connecting. (Here I can go into a body of research on how artefacts support thinking and knowledge creation, but I wouldn’t 🙂 Somehow the process of articulation is largely the process of idea development as well. Like a sculpture that exists only in a head of sculptor and needs to be molded into physical shape to get a life, writing gives shape and life to fuzzy ideas in my head.
Still, reading and writing are very vulnerable. Unless you are at the “almost final product” stage, they are difficult to put in a list of deliverables and deadlines. They are rather small things that need everyday bit of attention, like everyday watering of a plant that would bring you fruits one day. Not urgent, but very important.
This is where blogging helps. It creates a space for those small activities. Through fun of “distraction” between other tasks to read weblogs, urge of writing a small bit of idea before it’s lost in a middle of deadline, pressure and pleasure of knowing that there is a audience, others who may enjoy reading… Because it’s so fun I steal time from urgent things to blog, but as a result I create a space for important, so ideas have a safe place to grow before they are big enough to become urgent in a list of all kinds of deadlines.
And, there is a couple of practical implications 🙂
1. Contrary to others, I do not have any need to integrate my news aggregator with my email. Email is about urgent, and sometimes I want to ignore it, so it doesn’t fight with important.
2. I take time to read blogs and write myself in a middle of deadlines, with unanswered emails and long to-do lists. And I try not to feel quilty about it – because urgent can wait (and – survival of the fittest – really urgent things will get through anyway 🙂
* Don’t have a book with me to check, but as far as I remember from The Myth of the Paperless Office in one of the studies in 80% cases reading coincided with writing.
Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2005/02/21.html#a1499; comments are here.