Black Holes and Dead Ends The New Millennium

A few strategies I use to manage my social media and email accounts to avoid being sucked into the black hole.

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Managing Black Holes and Dead Ends

By “black hole” I mean those things in our life that suck up our valuable time. Here I’m specifically referring to email and social media.

I have multiple email accounts full of unread emails. At the end of 2019 I spent considerable time cleaning those accounts. I purged a lot, cancelled subscriptions and read a lot.

The reading a lot is the real time suck. It’s easy to go down the list and delete messages that are months old or that have uninteresting subject lines.

But some emails are from bloggers who write great articles full of interesting and valuable information.

Often, I end up saving them to a mailbox with the intent of getting back to read them the next time I have a few hours.

This is a bad habit. If I didn’t read the email months ago, how likely am I to go back and read it in two more months. Not very likely.

I have gotten better at letting these older emails go.

If I don’t keep up with the reading and purging, these accounts fill up quickly again.

So Many Accounts so Little Time

I have email accounts to receive special offers and newsletters from companies. The problem with many companies is that they send multiple emails each day.

Do they really think anyone is reading these emails?

Those accounts are easy to clean out and I get to them about once a week.

For work I have two email accounts and subscribe to multiple newsletters and web sites that send me stuff every day.

Getting curated articles sent to me is the only way to keep up with industry developments. I’m in healthcare IT, so things are changing rapidly.

I get sucked into the black hole with these emails when they are highly relevant to my work. Being in the office it’s easy to look up and realize that it’s time to get back to work.

As a blogger, I have more email accounts than most people. I can’t possibly keep up with all of them all of the time. I follow almost 300 bloggers and businesses and receive a tremendous volume of emails from them.

The pull of this black hole is even stronger. I would not have followed these bloggers unless I thought they had something to say.

As a blogger, I spend a lot of time at the keyboard and productive writing time is limited.

To manage the black holes and remain productive, I’ve come up with a few strategies.

Strategies to manage Black Holes

To get anything done and still have time for work and a life, you have to actively manage your email and social media accounts.

Here are my strategies.

Monitor several email accounts daily on your phone. When I have a minute I go into an account and clean it up. I’ve found that if I spend 5 minutes a day on these accounts I can keep them under control.

By segregating different types of emails into different accounts or mailboxes, it can be quite easy to clean up the commercial emails.

The account where I receive blogger email is tougher to clear on my phone, but if I can read or clear 20% during the day I have fewer distractions during my productive writing time.

Content Specific Email Accounts

As I mentioned before, I have email accounts for specific purposes.

I have a few email accounts that I use for Omni Running. To keep these accounts under control I manage them daily.

These are high volume accounts, but receive mostly high interest emails. I have very few general interest emails going to these accounts.

I can’t possibly manage these accounts on 5 minutes a day. My strategy is to scrub these accounts about every three months. I do manage to clean out some email daily, but the deluge is too much to keep up with.

My work email accounts receive a barrage of email daily. I manage to keep on top of these in real time as it is part of my job.

Many emails are from customers and colleagues and need to be addressed in a timely fashion. Other emails are from vendors, partners or industry web sites and newsletters.

It’s the industry related emails that are the real black hole here. Many have fascinating articles and information that I need for my job.

My strategy here is to only read what is truly important to my work. Interesting is not enough, it has to be important for my work. I don’t have time to be entertained or learn about things not central to my work.

By segregating different types of email into different accounts, it is possible to keep the clutter out of your main email accounts and still see the interesting but non essential emails.

Strategies to manage Dead Ends

404 Error, dead ends
Image Credit – techably.com

This brings me to Dead Ends.

I follow close to 300 bloggers. Over any three month period several bloggers will abandon their blog.

New bloggers often decide blogging isn’t for them or they don’t have the time to write, so they shut things down.

Some blogs are removed and some are just abandoned. While I no longer receive emails from these blogs, sometimes I’ll go to a blog to see what’s new.

When I find an abandoned blog, a dead end, I’ve just wasted valuable keyboard time.

Blogs turn into dead ends for other reasons also. Sometimes I loose interest in the blogger’s topic or they change direction. Until I click “unfollow” their emails continue to flow into my mail box.

It’s easy to delete the bloggers who gave up. The ones I’ve lost interest in are harder to delete. I’m always hopeful they will have something interesting to say, and  don’t want to miss it. I usually give these guys a few passes, but eventually they get cut.

When I do my email clean up, I delete the abandoned blogs from my feed also.

Twitter Black Holes and Dead Ends

Twitter can be another massive time suck. The torrent of tweets never slows. Not only do you get tweets from people you follow, you also get tweets from people who pay to get in front of you.

A few times a year I go in and clean out tweeters I’ve lost interest in. I also clean out the hyper active tweeters and the dormant tweeters. Some twitter accounts can send 20 or more tweets a day!

To manage the Tweeters I do want to follow I’ve been using lists to keep things organized. By grouping Tweeters it makes it easier to find tweets relevant to what I’m interested in or working on.

See my post on using Twitter Lists.

Black Holes and Dead Ends

With limited time to read and write, I’ve had to develop and practice these strategies. I’m still buried, but I am actively trying to manage the situation so that I can spend more time reading what really interests me, and of course trying to write what really interests you.

  • Are you buried in emails?
  • How many email accounts do you have?
  • Do you un-follow and un-subscribe?

Read well my friends and watch out for black holes!

Andy

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A Real River Run

An afternoon run looks like a run on the river!

river run, marathon training
Running down the River?

I went out for a Friday afternoon run at work. We were having another unseasonably warm day and I couldn’t resist. This was my second River Run for the week. When I ran across the Longfellow bridge on Tuesday there was a huge crowd on the bridge returning from The Patriots Victory Parade.

Today the crowd was light but my first mile pace was sluggish. Not sure why, but I ended up running an 8:23 pace over 5.03 miles.

When I got home and loaded my run into Garmin Connect I saw this interesting graphic. The green circle is supposed to be where I started my run. In the middle of The Charles River!

There is ice on the river, but barely enough for a duck to walk on. It’s mostly open water again.

Every once in a while I get a crazy result like this. I’m never sure why.

My watch locked onto satellites quickly and nothing seemed unusual. It was just another fun run along the river.

Do you ever get crazy results like this with your watch?

Run well my Friends and stay off the ice!

Andy

Abandoned Properties

Once a year I go through each of my social media accounts. Every time I do this I find Abandoned Properties.

What are Social Media Abandoned Properties?

You’ve probably guessed what I mean already. Abandoned properties are accounts where the author has stopped writing, updating or maintaining their account. You may be one of these people. When I started blogging almost seven years ago I had a free WordPress.com site. Because a WordPress.com site is free most people start there. And because it’s free anyone with an idea or opinion can set up their own soap box and have at it. Depending on your comfort with technology, you can have a blog set up in under 30 minutes. The WordPress.com environment is a free-wheeling and diverse universe to exist in. There are blogs on everything and anything that you can imagine. It is the epitome of free speech. There are the usual rules about hateful speech, exploitation, plagiarism etc. Other than that you can be as brilliant or stupid as you want. And there is plenty of both! Over time, many bloggers decide that they weren’t really writers after all, ran out of things to say or just don’t have the time to keep up with it.

Social Media Clean Out 2019

This year I went through all of my WordPress followers. Many of them followed me over from my WordPress.com site to Omnirunning.com which is built on WordPress.org. WordPress.org allows you to have your own address, such as omnirunning.com. It also allows you to sell things such as My First 5K medals, display frames or pretty much anything you want. Some Fortune 500 companies have their sites on WordPress.org. I discovered that many of my old blogging buddies have moved on. When the last post was from a few years ago, I could tell the property was abandoned. Others had messages saying they had closed up shop. Some old blog addresses were up for sale. More than one final post was written by someone dealing with a serious disease such as cancer. Those were sad to read. I hope those writers decided life needed to be spent elsewhere. A lot of Twitter accounts were also abandoned. Probably about 20%. Some of these were for events such as 5K races that have been cancelled. But a lot of them were personal Twitter accounts where someone just stopped tweeting.

How to Save Your Favorite Blog

Most of you are casual consumers of social media. Most of us are. There are plenty of corporations cranking out millions of words, info-graphics, memes and cat videos each day to keep you amused and sometimes informed. There are also millions of bloggers out there pouring their heart and soul into their work, just like a musician or craftsman. Many of them feel they are speaking in an empty public square or yelling into the void. For some writers that is fine. Writing let’s them vent and they don’t care if anyone reacts. They may prefer it. Then there are the bloggers who feel they have an insight, information or advice that they feel is worth sharing. For those writers, hearing crickets after they hit “Enter” is hard to take. From my own experience I know that some blog posts take hours to write over several days. Very few are spontaneous unedited articles. For anyone hoping to engage in dialogue about a subject close to their hearts the deafening silence can be discouraging.

What you can do

If you are reading articles on Facebook or 280 character excerpts on Twitter, try clicking through to the blog post. Clicking through to the actual blog post gives you the opportunity to like a post and even leave a comment. Leaving any indication that you actually read a post is very encouraging for most bloggers. Going to a writer’s blog also allows you to explore their other posts. Often you only see the latest post on Twitter or Facebook. Google and other search engines show you the most popular posts. But they may not show what is of most interest to you. As a reader you should take an extra minute to click through to the full article on the blogger’s site. I think lack of engagement is what causes many bloggers to close up shop. Why bother if no one is reading?

What can I do?

While I was reviewing other blogger’s sites, sometimes I saw a link to my blog listed on their “Blog Roll”. When I clicked through to my blog, I saw what I knew already: my home page needs to be rebuilt. Asking you to follow me is not enough. I need to make clearer what my blog is about. I also need to make it easier to follow my blog. On my home page I don’t have any options to follow me! On my blog page I only have two ways for you to follow me. As a blogger I can’t assume that everyone who comes to my blog knows anything about how this works. 99% of this stuff is still a mystery to me. How can I expect my readers to know what “follow me” means? I think some people are afraid to follow a blogger. Some of this is probably due to every store you’ve ever been to sending you 10 emails every day. I just can’t get my self to unsubscribe from CVS or Best Buy. I might miss something! All of us are buried in email already, who wants more email? Unlike CVS, most bloggers only post a few times a week. Most of us post once a week. It takes a lot of work! So if you follow a blogger, don’t worry about being inundated with email from them. If you do follow a prolific blogger you can always un-follow. You can mute a Twitter account also. Read well my Friends! Andy

WordCamp Boston 2017 Boston University

WordCamp Boston 2017 was another awesome event! WordCamp Boston is an annual 2-day conference for WordPress developers and users.

If you are a hard core coder or a business guy like me, there is something for you. WordCamps are held all over the country and WordCamp Boston usually takes place at Boston University in July.

WordCamp Boston 2017, Boston University, developers conference

For $40 you get two days packed with presentations, panel discussions, and a Happiness Bar. On top of that there are a variety of vendors there to learn from and get advice. They are there to sell product, but I’ve never has the hard sell from anyone. It’s just not how the WordPress crew rolls.

WordCamp Boston 2017 at BU

Saturday morning I missed the Opening Remarks, Keynote presentation and sessions. Lunch was all gone by the time I rolled in around 1:30 pm.

Mostly I attended sessions on using WordPress and topics for running your business on WordPress. I did sit in on a few developer and designer sessions that were only slightly over my head.

There is still plenty that I do not know or understand, and there always will be. I know what HTML and CSS look like, I just don’t want to look at that stuff for very long or I’ll fall asleep!

While I may never learn how to code a website from scratch, each year I learn a few new things. Three years ago I learned about the eCommerce platform called Woo Commerce. I still only know the basics, but it was a breakthrough that allowed me to move my web site to the next level.

This is why I go to WordCamp. One golden nugget like that is worth an entire weekend!

Last year I learned a lot from the GoDaddy team. It wasn’t as life altering as Woo Commerce, but it was still very helpful.

This year I sat down and spoke with a nice young lady about some issues I’m having with Woo Commerce. I knew many of her answers, but hearing them from an expert confirmed that I was on the right track and not wasting my time. It  was great to kick around some ideas with someone who really knew their stuff.

It’s always exciting to learn something new and WordCamp Boston never disappoints. This year I learned some great tips about SEO that I actually understood and can actually implement.

If you use WordPress, look for a WordCamp near you. In the GBA we have a user group called WordPress Boston which meets monthly. You may have a similar group in your neighborhood.

Blog well my Friends!

Andy

Time for a Change

Time for a Change?

For the past few years I’ve had a newsletter for people who followed this blog. Most people follow my blog on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

For the people who subscribed to the newsletter, I would send an email for each new post. In addition to a link to the latest blog post, the email newsletter had additional “content” as it is called.

Basically I provided links to running articles that I thought were interesting. Often I would add comments on the latest blog post.

I appreciate everyone who subscribes to this newsletter.

Change for more time

It can take a few hours or a few days to write a blog post. Even for a race recap, it takes time to pull together the details and make sure I have them basically correct.

I also updated the newsletter for each blog post by adding some new information and comments, to make it interesting, entertaining and hopefully worth your time.

I know everyone is inundated with emails and Facebook posts and newsletters from major publications like Runners World and even Marathon Sports.

I had hoped to grow the list of subscribers and turn this newsletter into something. I’m not sure what I had in mind, but something.

Unfortunately it never turned into much of anything. Few people subscribed and fewer ever opened the email they received. I’m inundated also, I absolutely get it.

The time I put into the newsletter is time I take away from writing the blog and working on my business. Like everyone else, I only get 24 hours in a day.

So, to get a few hours a month back, I’ve decided to discontinue the newsletter. 

If you are not doing so already, you can follow my blog on Facebook, Twitter. Pinterest or through your WordPress account.

Here are my links:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Run well my Friends!

Andy