WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
If technology saves us time, then why are we busier than ever?
One of my writing students raised this question to me earlier today, and my first reaction was to say, “Amen! No kidding.” But my second reaction–”Yeah, why is that?” lingered and lingered. So I thought on the matter. Here are a few reasons I wholeheartedly agree:
1. Our world has expanded. Gone are the days of waiting for the mailman to bring a letter someone wrote a week or a month ago. Now it’s minutes or less via email. Last week, my computer went into the computer hospital for three days. When it returned, I had over 800 emails waiting. I don’t recall ever getting 800 letters stuffed in my mailbox after a three-day hiatus.
So while our world has expanded, and much good comes from that, more demands on us and our time come with that good.
2. Because of technological advances, we’re capable of doing things ourselves that we once had others do for us–and delays in waiting for them to get to it. For example, many do their own web work now. Their own research. Their own tax returns. Their own marketing and promotion and newsletters and mailings and maintain their own data bases and do their own . . . well, you get the picture.
There was a time when you had to know html and own complex software programs to do many of these things. And rather than spend the time and money buying the programs and learning to use them (which was a career in itself!), you paid someone else to do those things for you.
If, like me, you were prone to getting lost in research because it was so very interesting, you paid someone to do it because you couldn’t afford the time you knew you’d spend sidetracked. This was especially true when the babies were with me. They had priority and other time was scarce, so it was imperative to compress and get as much as possible done in what other time I had. If I’d done my own research then, I’d have been blessed to get a book done in year and I was on a three-books per year schedule. Sandie, my devoted and dedicated assistant, saved me from myself. 🙂
I’ll admit though, I miss the days of getting lost in the library, following threads. Oh, I enjoyed that time. Now, rather than routine, that’s a special treat.
3. Not only have we expanded what we do for ourselves, we’ve expanded on what we do for others. We’re aware of more and involved in more, and each of those involvements (worthy though they surely are) take time and effort and energy. A few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to have two or three major areas where we concentrated our efforts outside of family/home and work. Now it’s common to be involved in a dozen–any of which has a major project going on seemingly all the time.
4. Because of increased exposure and broadened interests we’re finding ourselves pulled in so many different directions at once that at times we feel just overwhelmed. When that happens, often the first reaction is to pull back and do nothing. It’s like when you go to the store and there are three items to choose from, you pick one. But if there are thirty, you’re bombarded with the “which is the best one for me to get to do what I’m interested in doing?” And when that happens, you often leave the store with none because you feel the need to do more research to make the best buying decision.
That same rascal is at work in us when we’re tugged in too many directions at once, or when our focus is too slivered. No one thing gets sufficient focus to accomplish anything because our energy and effort is too diffused.
This can happen to us, but it can also happen to our works. Ideas come easily to most writers. They aren’t in short supply, but abundant, and we must sift through them to determine which we want to invest in writing.
Well, it never fails that when you’re neck-deep in one project is exactly when you’ll get a dozen great ideas for other projects. And they nag you and won’t leave you alone. In other words, they steal your focus.
That can create challenges and errors in work upon which you’re attempting to focus. You lose that honed vision. Sometimes you can get it back, sometimes you can’t. So it becomes important to have a means available to you to deal with the challenge.
One that works for me:
I have an idea file. Often ideas come in clusters. But they’re not necessarily related clusters–or if they are related, I don’t see how they’re related at the time. So I keep a file folder for “IDEAS.” When a nagging idea hits me, I create a file, tag it with a couple keywords, and drag it into the Idea Folder, then return as quickly as possible to the work in-progress.
This way, the idea is logged in and I can get it off my mind. It’s taken care of. I won’t forget it. I won’t worry about forgetting it. And my mind rests easy on the matter so I can focus intently on the current work–the one I should be focusing on.
One cool thing happens when you jot ideas down in an idea file like this. Your subconscious mind has taken the ideas in, and it will connect them and work through the logistics so that those connections are logical and rationale. And your brain does this while you’re otherwise occupied.
You might not realize it’s even happened. But you’ll be puttering along and suddenly the idea springs to mind and you realize it’s perfect for what you’re doing. And quite often, you’ll look back and see that the foundation for including it is already in place. I love it when that happens.
So the bottom line is that we do more now than we used to do because we have ways and the means to do more. We have access and interest. These are good things–assets–unless we take on so much that we drive ourselves into the ground. We really are human and we really do need downtime, too. And we need focus.
Being too busy is distracting. It wears us down and then out. So we must guard against taking on more than we should and remember that to accomplish our goals, we must focus.