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.

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

Fitness Level Calculator

What is your fitness level?

Physical fitness is key to a long life and good health.

Many of us judge our fitness level by what we see in the mirror, how fast we can run or what we can do in the gym.

These are all good indicators of physical fitness, but there are other factors that we cannot see in the mirror or on the stop watch.

One of these factors is cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiovascular fitness is a key health factor and indicator of fitness.

Your body’s capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise (VO2 Max) is the most precise measure of overall cardiovascular fitness.

There are two ways to measure your VO2 Max.

Based on extensive research, The K. G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, developed a survey that you can take to easily estimate your fitness level (VO2 Max).

The survey takes about five minutes to complete and requires information most of us know about ourselves.

The survey is anonymous and free. The data you provide is added to their database for research purposes.

The results of my October 2014 worldfitnesslevel.org questionnaire are below. Click my 2014 results and go to the Worldfitnesslevel.org website to calculate your fitness level.

Vo2max, age, fitness level calculator

I knew I was in the best shape of my life in 2014, but these results were surprising.

The survey asks questions about your weight, height, exercise routine and your diet. They also ask for your resting heart rate.

That’s probably the most difficult question for most of us to answer.

In 2014, I used a resting heart rate of 50 in my calculations. At that time my resting rate was usually below 50.

The best way to find your resting heart rate is to check your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. At a doctor’s office it’s not unusual for your heart rate to be slightly elevated!

Either method is fine as you are getting an estimate and not a diagnosis from this survey.

I took the survey again in March of 2019. This time I estimated my resting heart rate to be 56. It may be lower than that, but I’m certainly not in the same shape I was in 2014.

I weigh a little more in 2019, but my exercise and diet are similar if not a bit better. A question that I do not recall seeing five years ago was “How many hours a day do I spend sitting?”

Between work, commuting and sitting around the house, I estimated 12 hours per day. It’s probably more than that!

VoMAX, fitness

I am now five years older and weigh about 5lbs more than I did in 2014.

My results show that I have the fitness level of a 34 year old. That’s not bad for a 55 year-old. But five years ago I was as fit as a 24 year-old.

I didn’t dig into how the calculations are made, but the details are on their web site.

I’m pretty sure my pulse, weight and sitting time were the biggest factors to my loosing 10 years of fitness over five years!

I have read that it is important to know your VO2 Max for training. I never knew how to make these calculations and my doctor would not do it or refer me to a specialist to get the calculations.

Having a calculator designed by scientists is a good way to get a good approximation of your VO2 Max and fitness level. These calculations may not be 100% accurate, but it’s a good place to start.

Age can be measured by more than years

An October, 2014 New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds discusses the research study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) that helped develop this calculator. The NTNU have conducted studies on fitness and how it relates to wellness for more than 30 years.

This study, begun in the 1980’s, collected data from 55,000 Norwegian adults. They used the data to calculate the subject’s VO2max and  fitness age. The higher your VO2max in relation to others your age, the lower your fitness age. Then they checked the death records for the study participants and discovered a relationship between VO2max and mortality.

It turned out that people whose calculated VO2max was 15 percent or more below average for their age— meaning that their fitness age was significantly above their chronological years — had an 82 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those whose fitness age was the same as or more youthful than their actual age. According to the study’s authors, the results suggest that fitness age may predict a person’s risk of early death better than some traditional risk factors like being overweight, having high cholesterol levels or blood pressure, and smoking.
Source: NY Times

The NTNU study collected data from Norwegians and the researchers understand that their results may not be accurate world wide. They plan to expand their study group and update the questionnaire to help make the calculator more accurate  for people around the world.

Precisely Measuring Your Fitness Level

The most accurate way to measure your fitness level is a direct measurement using calibrated equipment.

In the Boston area Cenegenics Medical Institute in Boston  and Outback PT in Somerville offer the VO2 Max test. The test is conducted on a treadmill or exercise bike while you wear a heart rate monitor and a mask. The mask collects all exhaled breath in order to make the VO2 Max calculations.

For a VO2 Max test at Outback PT the cost is $199. At Cenegenics the VO2 Max test will run you $150.00, or combine it with a DEXA Body Composition Scan for $300.

Check out this video from Outback PT to see how the VO2 Max test is conducted at their office.

While nothing can replace a direct measurement of your fitness level, the on-line questionnaire is an affordable place to start.

Have you checked your fitness level?

Run well my friends,

Andy

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