Thursday, April 28, 2011

code dependent

Well, one way to solve the problem of internet-based procrastination is to lose your internet access. The problem is, you also lose your access to the things you really need to do.
That's what happened to me. On Friday, April 22nd, at approximately 7pm, my computer went dead. Perfect timing--it was during spring break, and I was intending to catch up on some grading over the weekend. Plus I couldn't even get into my office because all the babysitters were out of town for the holiday weekend!And let's not even talk about the fact that the kids had two additional days of break (this past Monday and Tuesday) that FIT did not.

I took the laptop in to our IT folks first thing Monday morning. By Tuesday, I still hadn't heard anything, other than it was "work in progress." Finally, yesterday, I got connected with the guy working on it (aka My Hero). I'd somehow gotten a virus that caused my hard drive to be inaccessible. It had to be replaced, but fortunately he was able to retrieve my data files by connecting an external hard drive.

WHEW. I just got it back, four loooooong days later (and 6 and a half long days after the crash).

In the meantime, my only access to email, my online classes, and everything was during the time I was able to be in my office at FIT (thank goodness, I still have a desktop unit, albeit an old and slow-ish one).

The rest of the time I felt entirely cut off from the world, from my friends, my family, my boyfriend, my fellow writers and collaborators and partners in crime. It was like a big NOTHING. Silence. I couldn't get in touch with anyone whose phone number I didn't have. I couldn't check my bills and accounts. I couldn't even cook without looking up recipes on the web.

How did I become so dependent on this machine--this chunk of plastic, metal, and whatever other crap that circuitry and such are made of? It's a bit bizarre.

I realized yesterday that I had been going through a serious withdrawal, which was probably chemical in nature. I am a techno addict, and so it follows that my brain was deprived of the dopamine surges it was accustomed to. This reminds me that I need to read Dr. Gary Small's book iBrain, to see exactly what it up with our neurochemistry in this day and age. I've been meaning to get around to it, but now it's time to stop procrastinating and get to it.

I just found it in the New York Public Library's electronic resource, eNYPL. I'm going to download it as soon as I get home with my newly healed laptop. Because now, I can.

Friday, April 08, 2011

what i do instead

There are a million things to do. And unfortunately, I have a problem staying focused. Instead of doing what I "should" be doing, I keep myself "busy" with lots and lots of Nothings. I check my gmail. I check my FIT email. I check the Angel network for messages and my online classes for new discussion postings. I go on Facebook (aka World's Most Successful Time-Suck). Lately, I even started playing Klondike solitaire again--a Nothing I hadn't indulged in for years, but which became frighteningly enmeshed with my hourly routine.

I found a wonderful blog on Psychology Today called "Don't Delay" by Timothy Pychyl, PhD. According to his bio, Dr. Pychyl's research is "focused on the breakdown in volitional action commonly known as procrastination and its relation to personal well being." Reading the blog I discovered that, like creativity, procrastination is a sub-field of study in psychology research. Fascinating.

Of course, reading the blog posts gives me another thing to do--not quite a Nothing, and it really gives me some food for thought. Mostly, it helps me feel less, um, pathological--I am certainly not alone in my Nothing-ness.

I've also read that checking email or texts obsessively--or even compulsive Googling--is connected with the surge of dopamine you get from receiving messages and retrieving information instantly. The last thing I need right now is to get locked into a dopamine-feedback-loop. I'll never get free!

I have decided that, today, I will only check gmail once an hour (if that sounds like a lot, believe me, it's a huge reduction). I will only go on Facebook at lunchtime and the end of the day. And I will not play Pretty Good Klondike at GoodSol Online at all.

Instead I will write. I will get my tax information to my accountant (a BIG source of entrenched procrastinating energy). I will make headway on grading. I will chip away at the dozens of things I need to do for the family--paperwork for Stella, child care arrangements, spring break travel plans.

One thing I am proud of is my commitment to exercise. This week, I have gone for a run/walk every day except Tuesday. And last night I finally did a yoga class at my gym for the first time in a few weeks.

Having done at least that, no matter how much of a blob I've been in other ways, shows me that, in at least one area, I can make the choice to do the right thing, the smart thing, the thing that is good for me. I know that this good energy can carry over into the other parts of my life.

Wish me luck! I'll keep you posted....