I keep reading articles about productive people and how they have all of these tricks that us regular folks are clearly failing at. While I like to consider myself above average when it comes to the quality of my output, I also have to acknowledge that like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I totally suck at multitasking. Technology keeps duping me into thinking that I can do lots of things at once, but I inevitably drop the ball on something while switching between jobs, emails, text messages and streams of thought and consciousness (and not to mention, checking Facebook whenever I get a notification.)
So in the spirit of all of the lists I keep on reading about how I can be a truly productive person, here’s my own list. These are all the things that are supposed to make my life better, while actually making it a bazillion times harder to manage:
AKA the devil. Oh so tempting. Such a waste of my time and braincells. Why can’t I ignore that stupid little notification bubble? Why do I even care if you like my post? Fuck you Facebook.
Under the guise of making it easier to communicate with my colleagues, this handy app disrupts my flow by making me think that there’s something more important for me to think about. What was I doing again? Oh right. Um… I have no idea.
3) Text messages
I could go on a ten-page rant about texting but that would make me sound way older than I am. I only got a cell phone in my final year of university. Until that point, I had existed in an untethered world. I made plans by calling my friends or talking face-to-face. We wrote our plans in our agendas. We stuck to them. There was nothing to alert someone that you were running late. They would simply stand there waiting and you would feel like a jerk. But now? You can text someone five minutes after you were supposed to meet them to tell them that you’re late. No kidding? You’re late? I hadn’t noticed that I’d been standing here like an asshole for ten minutes because I had the courtesy to arrive five minutes early.
Text messages also suck because you’re expected to respond to them instantly. If you don’t, you’re rude. Or, worse, you stand the chance of making the texter feel like crap because you obviously don’t care enough to respond right away. Final peeve: we text our friends for permission to call. Hey — you free? Can I call? What happened to picking up the phone and just calling? Oh — I know what happened. We invented so many ways to communicate that it made us forget how to erm… communicate.
4) Smart Phones
My phone is significantly more powerful than the computer in the first spacecraft that flew to the moon. I hold a supercomputer in my hand every day. This computer can tell me what the weather is doing today, tomorrow and next week (here in Montreal and in Timbuktu), what time I’m supposed to be somewhere, who wants to me to get in touch with them and when my next meeting is. It also annoys the fuck out of me because I can’t afford to leave it at home. I can’t just switch it off. Because of this piece of technology, I’m expected to be constantly available and it makes me mental. I occasionally fantasize about throwing it out the window. But we don’t even have a landline. My parents would worry.
After we moved half way across the world, I used to send letters to my childhood friends. Yes, it would take a week to get to them, but I still have many of those letters. What do we have now? Inboxes full of thousands of messages that we are never going to look at again. Don’t get me wrong: email is remarkable. I can write to someone in China and they can respond to me instantaneously. I can write ten messages a day to someone in China and they can get annoyed with me. I can send messages that I haven’t thought through. I can also then apologize for the thoughtless messages with more annoying emails. Gone are the days when we sat down with a piece of (often expensive) paper and a fancy pen to compose a thoughtful letter. Now we just send off whatever shite comes to mind, because hey, it’s free, what do we care?
I feel that I must write a disclaimer now. I work in tech. I am actually in awe of technology. But the idea that it’s making our lives easier is a farce. Technology is making it easier than ever communicate, to find information, and to make an impact on people across the world. But as human beings we need to recognize that there’s a time to be plugged in and a time to disconnect.
My goal for the month of May is to become one of those people who only checks my emails twice a day, uses Facebook sporadically for entertainment, and trains my friends and colleagues to expect that my phone will only be answered when I’m actually available to talk. I will write in my (paper) journal, schedule my time in my (paper) agenda and put my phone away from the time I pick up the kids until after they’re asleep. It’s going to be a massive challenge, but I think it’s going to be worth it. You should try too. Come on. I dare you!