16:28 PM

Just Say No to our Digital Leashes

I recently met Timothy Ferriss, a kindred intellect. Timothy has packed more lives into his 29 years than Steve Jobs has in his 51.

He's finishing up a book called The Four-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich , due out in April, and it is packed with some great tips for our harried times.

Tim is already a successful entrepreneur, and one that discovered the aimlessness of entrepreneurism at an early age. "I was constantly on the go, running around, making lots of money but hating to think that I would be doing this for the next 40 years. I'd already seen enough people do that and end up with quadruple bypass surgeries in their 50s, but I didn't know how to get off the tread mill," he said.

So a couple of years ago, Tim took off to the closest airport, and picked a destination at random. "I didn't know where to fly. I saw London on the board and bought a one-way ticket. Until then, the whole of my life had been scripted, I wanted to do something spontaneous."

Hallelujah, I can relate to the thrill of unscripted adventures. Tim ended up traveling the world, he lived in London, in Ireland learning Gaelic, in Japan learning Japanese and spent six months in Argentina learning Spanish.

[BTW, Tim is also a linguistics scholar, a neuroscientist and a competitive wrestler...]

"Argentina is an incredible place, it has every type of climate and you can get a great apartment for $400 per month. And there are more wireless networks there than anywhere I've ever been. Incidentally, Japan has none at all, I couldn't find any."

And that's where Tim gave up his Spanish studies and took up Tango classes. I had just been reading about Tango in a collection of short stories: "Sex, Death and God in L.A" One of the stories talked about how Tango can become a very addictive pastime...

"Soon, I was doing 6 to 8 hours of tango lessons every day," says Tim. "I was in a class filled with beautiful women and there just two guys." [Surely there must be more to tango than just beautiful women, I need to investigate further...]

Tim is by nature an athlete, a competitive wrestler by earlier choice. It's no surprise that he soon got into competitive tango and got as far as the semi-quarter finals of the world championships(!)

Getting back to his book, one of Tim's themes we discussed (at SVW's 24 hr meeting booths at the Lucky Penny Diner) was digital leashes.

"I've upset many a relationship because I couldn't get off my email. I'd be managing my email or my alerts and instant messaging, getting interrupted all the time. I had a desktop computer at the time, and that screen would always be on, bright and beckoning. Now, I use a notebook so that I can close it shut."

I know what Timothy is talking about and so do my readers. Not only do we have to deal with information overload, in this day and age we also have to deal with what I call "conversation overload."

I like to joke that I love BlackBerries, except for the email feature. Every time I peek into my inbox I lose two to three hours--and I'm still not done.

And some days I don't get to manage my email because I'm out and about visiting with people, trying to get interviews and scoops. Then when I get back to my desk, I'm writing and ignoring my email until my writing is done, or I fall asleep. Some days several days worth of email gets backed up in my inbox at which point I fantasize about blowing it all up.

When Tim went traveling he put himself on a one-day-a-week email diet! "I went from being addicted to email to checking it just once per week. I also left a message on my phone that I would not be checking voice mail messages but to send me an email."

It is difficult saying no to our digital leashes but I believe that being able to "just say no" is going to become an essential character trait for survival in our always on society. Tim's upcoming book has lots of great tips on this and many other subjects related to our modern lifestyle and culture, stay tuned for more...