Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kicking the Camel Out of the Tent

Or, "Ten Steps Toward Taming the Technology Tiger."

Yes, I mixed my metaphors. You may take your choice of the two images. If your use of technology is starting to feel more like a bothersome nuisance than a useful tool, choose the camel analogy. If the beast is more like a dangerous wild animal that threatens to devour you, choose the tiger.

My new Mac computer is a camel that encroached into my personal space so gradually I didn’t notice until my bum started to get a little chilly in the cold Canadian winter air outside the tent door. So, during this reflective time of the New Year, I’m making plans to kick the camel out of the tent, or at least to push her over into a smaller corner.

I’m going to become more disciplined and deliberate in my use of this wonderful technology. My goal is to make sure the tail quits swinging the tiger in 2012. (Arrggg. Internal critic is cringing at that irrational expansion of the mixed metaphor, but I’m ignoring her.)

So here are my plans. They are NOT resolutions, or regulations. They are simply steps I plan to take toward the goal of harnessing this wondrous beast so he will find out who is boss, and will get down to the important business of carrying my stuff to the market.

In 2012, I will:

1. Honor my personal priorities: I’ve been practicing this discipline for a while now and it has saved my sanity. I will not turn on my computer in the morning until I’ve spent some quality time with my Lord and Master. Every morning, I need to yank on the anchor chain—to make sure I’m properly attached to my fixed point of reference—before I’m ready to begin sorting through all the flotsam and jetsam the culture has washed up on the internet shore during the night. If I oversleep and don’t have time to spend reading my Bible and talking to Jesus, then I don’t have time for the internet.

2. Write every day: This is a new one for me. I’ve resisted it for a while, because it sounds like a New Year’s resolution with a built in crash mechanism. I suspected it wouldn’t work because it clashes with my lofty ideal of not writing unless I have something worthwhile to say. I’m deathly afraid of spewing out more flotsam and jetsam. But I’ve decided it might work if I connect this step with the previous one. If I make my daily writing assignment a simple entry in my personal devotional journal, I will benefit in several ways: I will become more disciplined about writing; I will become more practiced as a writer; and if the journal entry ends up having some nugget of truth or beauty in it, I can incorporate it into a blog post later. If it’s jetsam and flotsam, it can just float around in my personal eddy pool without bothering anyone else.

3. Manage my computer work time well: I have decided I need to be deliberate about how I use my computer for marketing my book. I’ve collected a huge list of things I could do to increase the exposure of Zinovy’s Journey on the internet. I need to sort out the useful items on that random list and make a plan—a daily, weekly and monthly plan—for traveling down this uncharted road toward worldwide marketing and distribution of ZJ. This planning step will be the first thing on my list of things to do.

4. Blog more consistently: I know. I’ve made this commitment before and not followed through. So I will try again. I will work out a schedule that keeps my two blogs going at a steady pace. I’m not saying I will post often. I will aim for more regular submissions, rather than more frequent ones. I will start out with the intention of posting one blog a week, to one or the other of the two blogs. My goal for the year is to work up to one post for each of the blogs every week. Without posting flotsam or jetsam!

5. Be deliberate about the blogs I follow: I’m discovering so many good blogs out there—writing ones, devotional ones, entertaining ones. I could spend hours every day reading them all. But I’m going to have to discriminate. I will pick the best, most useful ones, and subscribe to them. I may have to choose a number--ten or twelve--and subtract one blog on my list for every new one I find that I want to add. Ouch. This one will be hard to live up to.

6. Develop my social network carefully: I’m making so many new “friends.” I want to “like” them all, but I can’t keep expanding my list of friends forever. I’m going to have to define some parameters. My “friends” should be people I’d like to sit down and have coffee with. And each social networking community needs to be treated a little differently. It took me a while to figure out that LinkedIn connections should only be people I actually know, and I’m still grappling with how to add networking “friends” to my personal community on Facebook. Twitter is a complete mystery to me, but I’m already deciding I only want to follow birdies I can respect and learn from.

7. Interact with, and make a positive contribution to my internet community: I want to give as well as take in this social network exchange. I will not only read my chosen blogs, I will comment, and contribute often to other sites that are worthwhile. I will always give credit for material that is not original, linking to sources of information so the creators can gain internet exposure. When I communicate on Facebook, I will link to friends who are trying to expand their networks, and contribute in ways that will be helpful to them. I will pass on useful information, rather than shallow personal comments.

8. Limit my social chatter: I spend way too much time during the day checking my social networks for no apparent reason. I will set a schedule for checking them, and resist gravitating to the computer, just to see what’s up, when I’m bored or trying to procrastinate.

9. Play Games for the right reasons: Those reasons are: 1) personal refreshment; 2) healthy entertainment; 3) social interaction. I have to confess I’ve got a weakness for Spider Solitaire, but I honestly feel I am not able to play that game any more. It’s too addicting for me. So I have decided to delete that game completely from my roster of potential computer entertainments. I will play other computer games—ones that satisfy without creating an inner vacuum that only gets bigger when I try to fill it. I will play games that involve other people, and I will play them for the connection with my friends as well as for entertainment. Any entertainment activity that does not allow me to walk away feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work will be off limits to me.

10. Exercise spiritual disciplines in regard to overall computer use: My plan, this year, is to fast one day a month from both food and technology. I took a personal retreat day last week, and was amazed at how it clarified my focus and recharged my spiritual and emotional batteries. I’ve already scheduled my next one, and they will be slotted into my calendar every month for the rest of the year. One day out of every thirty, I will abandon my tent to the camel and find a solitary place where there are no backlit screensavers, no “you have mail” dings, no way to comment or reply with my fingers alone. I will check heaven’s mailbox, and read, comment or reply with my heart instead.

So those are my plans. We’ll see how it goes. Until this time next year.

The images in this blog post are from the delightful children's book, Humphrey's First Christmas, Written and illustrated by Carol Heyer.