Distraction Management

When I shifted my email to Gmail and my feed slurping to Google Reader, I became aware of how fragmented my various focal points of attention are.

Years ago I became convinced of the need and value of separating my personal email and electronic bits of information from my business email. At the time I was working at IBM and I had this sort of bizarre I should be able to walk out on a moment's notice with a single paper carton of personal effects philosophy. For the most part I kept to that, I rarely had a lot of personal effects in the office, and I minimized my personal digital footprint on the various IBM computers and services I used.

I left IBM some years ago and dropped out of the corporate race to the bottom. Still, I maintain a separation between my personal and professional identities online (my personal site is epcostello.net). At one point, after my primary email address was joe-jobbed, I fragmented my email addresses further setting up friends, family and public inbound addresses and identities.

My web sites are fragmented, not only do I separate a personal from professional site, but I use different installations of MovableType to run them.

I have multiple AOL Instant Messenger accounts, e.g. epcwork, epchome and epcmobile, which again made sense some years ago (when I used an always-logged-on epchome account as a way of accessing files remotely), but does not make sense now.

It's not that the Google perspective on the world as everything is searchable brings clarity to this, if anything, a world in which you're taught to rely entirely on search to retrieve data encourages keeping everything, signing up for as many inbound paths for information and not worrying about the glut, the data fog. But the process of walking through and changing email addresses and aliases did bring light to a problem I am currently having:

I spend too much time focusing on too many things very few of which add value to my day to day personal or professional life.

So I've started on a path to reduce the number of distractions in my digital life (my non-digital life actually has few distractions and could probably use a couple of additions). I've begin a process to shift all of my public registrations to a single email address, regardless of whether it's professional or personal. Legally, as a sole-proprietor LLC, I'm going to get held accountable one way or another so that distinction is moot. I'm not actively destroying old email address, not even sending out Please update your email for me to be epc@yetanotherdomain.nam.e, but I am actively reducing my email footprint to one if possible, perhaps two addresses.

I've ratcheted up my anti-spam blocks to actively delete all caught spam. I decided I just don't care that 1 in 1000 messages may be valid, there are other ways to reach me.

I already noted that in the transfer from Bloglines to Google Reader I had to purge close to half of the 1000 subscriptions I'd had. I would like to do a side-by-side comparison as I feel I purged a few dozen that I actually enjoyed, but because Google Reader mangles the OPML so badly it's difficult to do any sort of comparison between the Bloglines OPML and the Google Reader OPML.

I have changed my inbound email to direct almost all bulk email to Google Mail. This lets me filter down only the email that is genuinely sent to me personally in my mailboxes and cuts down what gets sent to my mobile device.

I'm still looking for that golden filter, the Technorati × Bloglines × Google Reader × Digg × etc. mashup to tell me what's really of value to read, and what isn't. It isn't out there, and the various platforms are closed enough to make it a pain to mash together. It's not out of reach, it just requires more time and energy than I'm currently willing to expend.

It's a distraction which I just don't need at the moment.

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