If You OverCommit Here, You UnderCommit There

I think a lot about the question of how to spend one’s time.

My life consists of three main things: writing, speaking and Board work. I write to hear an idea unfold. I need to write with space because what I think will come out and what comes out are not the same and it’s as if the story is unraveling itself letter by letter, sentence by sentence. I speak to share those ideas but also to hear what ideas resonate and matter. To hear the question sometimes asked, ofttimes not. Because even in the silence, I know there is a new question. Pragmatically, I also speak for fees because it is a way to monetize all the time I’ve spent developing ideas. I stay active with companies through board work and advising entrepreneurs because that gives me specific substance to chew on. I am — as always — like a dog to a bone with a problem and the more complicated the problem, the more I enjoy it. And, as much as I enjoy speaking and writing, it is just the act of working on solving a concrete and specific thing that I find deep satisfaction.

On any given day, I could spend more time being connected in my local community, advising start-up entrepreneurs, going to a bunch of interesting conferences where I am sure to run into cool and interesting people, perhaps even doing some lucrative consulting for one of those Global brands who keep calling asking me to return to my old job. (Oh and almost forgot — tend to the family!)

And as I try and discern for myself where to put my energy, and what balance makes sense, I feel like it’s like teetering on a log while crossing a river. I might stay on the log, but I always feel like I’m about to fall off. It’s such a challenge. To be supportive of others, but not depleted by their needs. To be in balance with all parts of life — spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual and not just spiked on more doing work. I suspect this is a common struggle; you likely do this also…. And, I acknowledge: These are good challenges, but challenges nonetheless.

And today, Derek Sivers dropped me an email with his latest essay in which he poses the question in a parallel way — For him, he wonders how to be local, and yet global at the same time. “If you over-commit yourself locally, you under-commit yourself globally.”

Two years ago, when I moved to Singapore, I decided to do the opposite. I wanted to get to know my local community. I met with over 400 people, one-on-one, went to every conference and get-together, and said yes to every request. I spent most of the last two years just talking with people.And I really got to know the Singapore community.

But something never felt right. After a day of talking, I was often exhausted and unfulfilled. Two hours spent being useful to one person who wants to “pick my brain” is two hours I’d rather spend making something that could be useful to the whole world (including that one person).

Then people around the world email to ask why I’ve been so silent. No new articles. No progress on my companies. Nothing.

So there’s the trade-off. By being so local-focused, I’m not being as useful as I was when I was making things online.

More here, and in long form, here: http://sivers.org/local

Derek points out a truth — there is no right and wrong to the choices.

As 2013 starts to approach (Dear God, am I writing a New Year’s post already?!), it’s a good question to ask yourself before you just get into the fray of the action:

What is the mix of activities that will be most fruitful in the coming year?

I use the word fruitful intentionally. We can focus on near-term production, and forget to feed the source of all that production. There is a system to be tended, and perhaps some pruning to be done. And if you want to do some homework, maybe you’d draw a pie chart of your time and doodle out where work / family / fitness / faith / friends and such would fit into the mix. I know I’m going to be doing some noodling around here over the break time. I’ve come to see this discernment is also a negotiation with other parties in my life — from board assignments to what my family needs… I’m starting now…

From this clarity, commitments will flow.

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