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6 Months without Twitter and Facebook

Apart from my 6 month blogging absence here at, I also avoided almost all interaction with Twitter and Facebook.

I would occasionally log in to both to post news of new updates at, our Spanish learning site, (as well as my personal Twitter we have a NIS FB page and Twitter account), but this almost felt like it wasn’t ‘playing the game’ – using FB and Twitter as a service to publish news without being ‘social’.

Now I’ve been dipping my toes back in the FB and Twitter water, and have come to the following conclusions.

1. Both services are a huge distraction to getting any real work done – and I have minimal time to work as it is!

2. Twitter is much better for getting news, and for getting pointed to interesting stuff going on around the net, but it’s also a place to get pointed to an awful lot of stuff you just don’t need to know about at all, ever.

3. It is kind of nice when Facebook tells you what an old friend is up to.

4. When I use twitter (mostly via the Mac’s Twitter App), and follow links from there around the web, my blood pressure rises very quickly – so I’m not sure Twitter is good for my health!

5. My life was not in any way poorer for not being engaged with these services for 6 months. Therefore, I could give them up again, but the fact that EVERYONE is now in there, and that they form such a firm part of the fabric of the net, will probably keep drawing me back every now and again. FB is winning over Twitter though, as the distraction factor is lower, and it doesn’t make my blood pressure go up so much.

6. As a wise person once told me, you have to give something up to really understand it, and what it does to you. He was talking about wine, though I think there are parallels with the long term effects of Social Media!

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Twitter in Spain

Here’s a screenshot from my iPhone (my sister claims having an iPhone makes me a yuppie, I think she’s right) of all the people twittering within 25 km of me, here in Madrid, right now…

It’s a cool feature of an iPhone app called Tweetie, and just one more way to get addicted to Twitter. I can spend minutes scrolling through all this digisura

I mean, in the above tweets we have not only information about a random stranger’s sex life, but a poem about the Rio Duero… it’s an art form, I swear… and I can’t actually tell if I’m trying to be cynical anymore. I love it, am fascinated by it, and at the same time find it absurd (in the philosophical sense… if you know what I mean).

In any case, it seems Twitter, like Facebook, has had a swift integration into Spanish online life …and whenever things are a bit quiet here on the blog, you can always find and follow me on Twitter 🙂 I promise to reveal to you … well, stuff of great interest!

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The Best Damn Way I’ve Ever Found To Get Things Done


Working from home for the last couple of years, I’ve tried just about every productivity idea, software and system in the book to get more (or any!) stuff done, and pretty much most of them don’t work for more than about 2 days… after which they drive you so mad trying to follow their complex productivity rules that you feel you want to explode!

So this is the latest system I’m using, I reckon it’s pretty good whether you work at home or in an office, and I certainly can’t claim to have invented it. I’ve cobbled it together from a few sources (Eben Pagan, Tim Ferriss, me…) Here we go:

1. Start the day with a list of a couple (no more!) of really important things you need to get done. Write these down on a piece of paper on your desk. As you get them done through the day, put a big satisfying line through them! Alternatively use a simple text document, and write DONE next to things as you get them, well, done.

Now the IMPORTANT bit:

2. Work in the following way. 50 minutes work, 10 minutes rest, 50 minutes work, 30 minutes rest. Repeat as necessary.

During each 50 minutes block you work 100% on the task of work you have set yourself. No email, no youtube, no IM, nada, just hard work on the most important task you have to do that will inevitably lead to more money for you or your company. Sounds tacky, but that is what work is for, isn’t it?

I have a little desktop timer/alarm widget for the Mac that I set for 50 mins, it chimes when it’s time for the break.

3. At the end of every 50 minutes, make a note somewhere, on or off the computer, of what you have done. This is your work diary. It helps you see how much you are doing, making you feel good about yourself when you review it at the end of the day.

4. In the 10 and 30 minute breaks, get far away from the computer if you can. Make a cup of tea, go for a walk, talk to the cat… Don’t do any sneaky work!! (If you are in an office and can’t leave the computer, read some relaxing newsy stuff etc)

5. Never process all your email until you have done at least one 50+50+10 stint. If you really have to look at it, do, but don’t start answering email. Make ’email’ one of your 50 minute sessions, but not during the first 2 or 3 of these 50 min sessions of the day.

I find it is best tackled just before or after lunch. And once you get into it, empty your inbox! Process all of it! Then leave it. Close that program. No cheating. Email is a ‘productivity’ killer. The biggest. Give it it’s allotted time, no more.


Well, it’s working a treat for me. More work, less guilt about not doing enough, and a good record of everything I’ve done. Even if you just get two, max 3 of those 50+10+50+30 sessions done per day, and you don’t break the rules of distraction, you will be doing more than before, guaranteed.

Thought it might help someone somewhere! Comments welcome…

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Off-topic – Who sets these things up???

1- Go to Google

2- Type in the word “Failure”

3- Instead of clicking “Google Search,” click “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

4- Spread the word before the people at Google “fix” it.

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It’s Groundhog Day

Last night I saw the film Groundhog Day for the first time in my life, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Wow was I surprised to discover today that it really is a real day!

The excellent Radio Open Source has an interesting post on this must-see film, and is doing a show on it tonight. Should be worth listening to.

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Best (update: worst) blonde joke ever

No Thanks to Rich Pav for bringing me the best blonde joke ever. I guess everyone in the blogosphere has heard it by now.

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V-logging, video-casting…

Just what is it called? Anyway, having asked you many times if we should be videocasting or not I’m still no closer to doing anything about it. However, check out this v-cast from David Shuff’s hitchhiking trip across Northern Japan. Inspiring stuff. This is the sort of thing I’d like to try to produce one day…

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No Audio book, sorry, but great GTD system!

Over in the right-hand column there is a pointer to my book Errant in Iberia. At least one person has noticed that it used to say ‘Coming soon in Audio Format’ underneath. Well, I’ve kind of taken that project off the to-do list. I tried recording a couple of chapters but just wasn’t happy with the results, so I’m afraid that it shall, for the immediate future at least, stay in that antiquated ‘book’ format, the old-school paper and ink kind. Ideal for getting to sleep at night. Or reading on the beach, so you don’t get sand in your iPod.

Speaking of to-do lists, I am revolutionizing my life (I think) with the ‘Getting Things Done’ system, GTD to me. It really seems to work – empty inbox, empty in-tray, loads of clear ideas about what needs to be done next in every aspect of life. Wow. Read all about it here. Why not give it a try?

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Ditch Internet Explorer!

Click on the Firefox button over at the top of this page’s right hand column, and get the Firefox browser. Firefox is far better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Why? Because you can have several sites open in just one window at the same time, using ‘tabs’. Because there are loads of invaluable extensions to add which do loads of cool things (like tell you the weather, search wikipedia etc), and because Firefox is far less vulnerable to Spyware. Plus a little bit of top-quality competition for Mr B. Gates is never a bad thing!

And for everyone who downloads a copy of Firefox via NFS, I get up to 1 dollar from Google, much needed for funding my charity India bike ride!

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Yahoo gets podcasting too!

Yahoo joins the podcasting world with a brand new directory. I think when all this started a year or so ago a lot of people thought that podcasting wouldn’t be around for long, but new directories from big players like Yahoo and Apple have shown that this new media phenomenon is going from strength to strength. As I’ve always said, if you enjoy the Notes from Spain podcasts, then there’s a very good chance that you too should be producing your own. So, go on, give it a go!