The vicious circle & the virtuous line

Decluttering shouldn’t be limited to empyting the closets: clutter and chaos are in our minds too. They’re the “noise” which prevent us from really focusing on what we are doing: removing or limiting it means more productivity (if “what we are doing” = “work”), but also being calmer and more in the moment.
It’s a very popular and very complicated topic, with multiple elements intertwining: multitasking, for example (which can be a plague or a gift, depending on the angle). The more or less severe addiction to technology, the Web and the social networks in particular, e to all those nice gadgets making us able, but in some way also forcing us, to be always on, sources and targets of a never ending information stream delivering constant inputs, good or bad as they may be. The incapacity of properly filtering these inputs, remaining focused for more than a few minutes on a single thing, because there’s always something else potentially more interesting, lurking from behind just another virtual corner. The tendency to procrastinating certain tasks (write a report or study or do the laundry or go the Postal Office) we really don’t feel like doing, and replacing then with another one, not necessarily more pleasant or fun… because finding something else is so easy, and so natural in a way. Also, it’s a topic towards which I happen to feel a lot of ambivalence: on one side, I never had problems focusing. Typically, while translating  (when I was younger, while studying) I forget to eat, and there’s no social network or feed to keep me from it. Maybe every once in a while I check Twitter or Mail, but in a very casual way, and only if my  deadlines allow it. Generally speaking, if I have something to do, I just do it and don’t stop until it’s done. It’s my virtuous line: start, do, and stop when finished. A very convenient approach to adopt when you happen to be an independent worker 🙂

Unfortunately, there are other moments, dilating and dragging along until becoming hours, and days, when I have the attention span of a goldfish. I’m literally jumping around from Twitter to eBay to Google Analytics to my feed reader to the news and back. I should review a translation: it’s not a “real” job, though, so I don’t feel any urgency. I know I should get to it, and yet I’m coming and going twenty thousand times from a social network to another before starting. I open the file and after a paragraph I remember I have to check the delivery of an item sold on eBay. Launch Safari. Then go to Mail to get the tracking code, look at a client message and I remember it’s time to send my invoice for the month, Launch Parallels (my admin application runs on Windows), and while it’s starting I paste the tracking code in the search page of the carrier… At the end of the day I can’t really say I did nothing (send invoice – check; track delivery – check; review article – check; update FB page – check…); and, just to be clear, this kind of attitude from my part generally means it’s a less-than-intense period as far as work is concerned. I never missed a deadline in 10 years, and the quality of my work keeps my customers happy. Yet, at the end of those days I feel restless, and tired in a strange, unhealthy way: nothing to do with the feeling I get from translating all day long without a single break (and without the need of having one!). A vicious circle I normally manage to break getting away from my desk and doing something not computer-related, like cleaning the house, or working out. Yet 1) I find leaving the desk difficult enough 2) and, after a while, I inevitably come back, at the very least because I have to make sure any customer’s enquiry gets answered to. And the cycle starts over. Unfortunately, I happen to do the same in “analog” circumstances too: talking and reading at the same time, I end up stopping in the middle of a sentence… making the person I am talking to VERY happy and NOT upset at all, as you can imagine!

All the ingredients of the recipe are there: multitasking, technology addiction, inability to focus, procrastination. It’s no surprise I found myself in need of a digital sabbatical

The topic of procrastination is very dear to Diego Petrucci, the author of Il Mac Minimalista, the Italian version of MinimalMac, a blog to which, now and then, I have the honor to contribute with my translations. The following articles on procrastination have been collected by Diego and published in translation; English readers obviously won’t be interested in the Italian version, so here you are with links to the original sources.

We’re here on Earth to fart around – How do you not notice an inflatable snow man in the middle of August? For the author of this aticle, it’s the beginning of a quest towards a heightened awareness.

Say hello to my little friend –  From Web pusher to Web addict

A radical solution to the problem of wasting time on social networks: Anti Social

Later – From the New Yorker, an incredibly interesting review on the topic of procrastination

What about you? Anything rings a bell? Comment away and let me know your opinion!

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