Being a generalist, staying focused and *bursty* work

I’m a generalist, really.  I have some very deep knowledge in a set of specific categories, but the whole pleasure for me, is to be somewhat expert (okay, deeply expert) n more than one. I think most of my interests fit together(but not all) and that having diverse perspectives helps me keep learning and keep a fresh point of view.

On the other hand, if you are a generalist, the issue is keeping focus, Maintaining multiple interests or areas of expertise can make it easy to juggle too many balls. Too much juggling=stress, not success.

There’s this delicate balance, or constant tension between my areas of focus that I enjoy, but that also scares me when I have BIG projects to take on. 

The way I try to manage that is to think of my work as happening in bursts–ie, I don’t have to be equally involved in thinking about media entrepreneurs and the future of news and content at the same time I am writing product specs for a non-profit portal rearchitecture. 

My efforts in writing about sex, gender, identity and feminism can be balanced with my interest in  training people and organizations how to use–and plan campaigns and programs–using social media.

Problem is, sometimes I just run out of time and have to make tough choices. I put my women-focused, entreprenurial startup idea on hold two months ago because I got two really great consulting projects and decided to do both over the 3 months. Fairly soon, I am going to get some new news that will lead to another focus in my set of interest areas, once again.

On one hand, I celebrate this and think it’s great. I like blogging, consulting and doing start-ups simultaneously (and I like bootstrapping, too.)

On the other hand, I recognize that many people are more serial in their focus than I am (I think) and are more likely to do just one thing at  time, not two or three.

Curious how this works for other folks–how many multiple projects do you maintain at one time, and what % of your strong interests or expertise do they reflect?

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  1. maiki says:

    If you haven’t, you should see the latest episode of 30 Rock.
    I pride myself on being able to hold more than four or five things in mind at once. Even when I have to focus on something for a prolonged amount of time, I generally have a smaller task(s) to do in those moments of lull. It may be that my mind percolates or something, but I find that I end up having those ah-ha moments after a few hours of multi-tasking.
    I am the kind of hacker that finds busy-work to be the antithesis of relaxing.
    As for how my interest/expertise intercept with my projects, well, my unspoken vow of poverty (sans, or because of, the electronics budget) allows me to be deeply interested in all of the work/play I do. ^_^

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