Things I don’t want to miss out on.

This post is not entirely travel related, but I figure that balancing priorities is something that everyone struggles with and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve had to work even more creatively to find time for everything I want to accomplish.  Previously, I used my willingness to work long hours as my go-to strategy for bailing myself out.  Once I had Cole, I couldn’t do that anymore.  I had to actually think about whether I “really” wanted to do a project because my time became even more finite, and over committing meant taking me away from my son.  For the first time, I realized what a spineless wimp I am!

I really hate it when people don’t think I’m totally amazing and awesome.  Total wimp-ville.

Over the last two years, I’ve gotten over that a bit and learned to really test my gut for the time-worthiness of any given idea.  Do I really want to do this or do I feel obligated?  Am I avoiding something?  Do I feel like I’m in service to my ideas (I must pursue them) or that they are in service to me (they help me refine my mission).

It’s better now, but even that wasn’t enough!

Now, I’m learning Mandarin, living in China, Cole is running around like crazy, I’m working on a plethora of essential writing, photography and video projects and — oh god — this is embarrassing — I’m spending way too much time on Facebook.

The truth is… I’m still pretty spineless!  I will stay Facebook-friends with people I only know vaguely and who insist on being negative, starting controversies or picking fights. I’m also following dozens of people that I honestly don’t know who they are, except they added me (on my personal account, not my almostfearless page), we have 100+ friends in common (mostly other writers) and I don’t want them to think I’m a snob!

It’s completely ridiculous.

There’s a lot of noise in my life.  At one point I allowed it in, invited it even.  It’s like adopting a Mogwai — cute and fun in the beginning but leave it unattended and bam! you’ve got a theater full of gremlins singing along with Snow White.  Your whole life is over-run.

My list of sins: travel blogging communities that I read, blogs about the business of travel blogging, personalities who say brazen things that infuriate me, others who speak on behalf of all travel bloggers in sophomoric open letters to the travel industry (look how important and successful we are!) which make me cringe and a slew of drama from a few people I’ve called my colleagues for almost four years.  And I read it all!

Since this fall, I’ve been slowly eliminating high-noise, low-signal sources.  I trimmed back all of my twitter followers.  I dropped out of every group that was catty.  I started unsubscribing (but not unfriending) people who I don’t know in real life.  I blocked anyone who pissed me off.  Say something insanely stupid: blocked.  I blocked people who insisted on posting links to people that piss me off.  That open letter?  I unsubscribed or blocked everyone who shared the link (thankfully due to my prior culling, it was only two people).

If I know you in real life, then I’ll tolerate your crap.  But anonymous strangers who happen to have the same profession as me?  You’re out!

I am of two minds about this: first, this is awesome!  My online life is so clutter free that I can actually read people who matter to me, and second, oh god, I’m such a jerk, people are going to think I’m a cold-ass b*tch!

By the way, I am a total b*tch.  A b*tch who gets sh*t done!

Being nice, helpful and generous with your time — at least in my case — was just me over-compensating.  By taking back my time and ruthlessly and savagely weed-wacking through my distractions, I’m actually making more time for my close friends, colleagues and family.

There’s a small quiet space opening up in my world.  It feels nice to have time to concentrate.  I feel calm.  I’m no longer beset by the negativity of others.  I’m seeking out inspiring people!  I have more time to read!

Drew was standing over my shoulder while I checked Twitter and since I just have 77 people I’m following, he was amazed saying, “Wow your stream is so high quality, every tweet is something interesting.”

Isn’t that the point?

I’ve been hearing a lot about this — mostly other writers and bloggers — and it feels like a theme we’re all running into… the big rush to connect, be online, have the “conversation” has now turned into a mass exodus of smart and talented people who are dropping out online (at least from the non-productive areas) in order to get stuff done.

The biggest benefit: I’ve actually had time to respond to reader emails.  (I’m still catching up, so bear with me!)

Is your online life cluttered?  What could you accomplish if it all dropped away?

Update: Just found out that Pico Iyer wrote a piece two weeks ago for the New York Times about this same subject: The Joy of Quiet. Worth a read.

Update 2: A-list blogger Chris Brogan also wrote this week about noise-signal ratio of the web and what you can do to improve it.