It’s important not to spend too much time communicating, or following social norms, unless you have a great need for these things. I spent most of my twenties in an environment that could be characterized as the epicenter of networking, Harvard Business School. I was one of the first few hundred people on Facebook (my undergrad students convinced me to join in the first few days of its existence), and I was a very early adopter of LinkedIn. At Harvard, I always sensed that there was an uneasy mix of “old” and “new” social rules. The old social rules applied—you were to attend weddings and birthday celebrations and be generally aware of significant life events. But the new social rules also applied—it was expected that, with the aid of the latest technologies, you would be friends with a huge number of people, including Harvard section-mates, old students, and your entire pre-Harvard network. 

Something, as they say, has to give. What gives is the old social rules. People move toward small weddings, no birthday celebration, sporadic gift-giving, and quick/thoughtless communication. On the whole, though, all of this occurs slowly; the individual strives to live by the old social rules and is loath to give them up. The new social rules and old social rules coexist uneasily, and the result is extreme busyness…

…Your philosophy of personal organization is really your all-encompassing strategy for how to approach life. Michael Porter has said that “the essence of strategy is that you must set limits on what you’re trying to accomplish.” My personal philosophy on organization is that I don’t want to spend all my time communicating. (You might be different.)

As we adjust to new technology, I believe it will be necessary to come to view incoming communication as an offer for interaction rather than as a to-do list item. Ignoring is the path to simplicity for the message receiver, and the most effective way for society to deal collectively with a surfeit of messages of all types. It’s very important that your investment of time and energy be generated by your own desire for outputs, broadly construed. You should spend your time and energy to accomplish and experience what you want to accomplish and experience. Don’t allow other people’s inputs (messages of various kinds) to be the determinant of how you spend your time and energy….

Want to read more? Check out my new book, Personal Organization for Degenerates.