I'VE NEARLY COMPLETED TWO ISSUES of my publication at work as a solo act. Granted I have help from the remote managing editor (ME) as backup, but because she splits her time among three total pubs, I can only claim some of her attention. (Never mind that ours is the top biller, and therefore ought to command more than a third of the ME's time, but as I've written, that will change soon.)
Being virtually independent has taught me a couple of things in battlefield email and task management. I admit I flounder now and again. It's probably self-inflicted. I had to break myself of a bad list habit, in which I accreted item after item on successive sheets of note paper — taped together like some unending pact with an infernal Power — and inevitably failed to remove more than I added. I was doing nothing more than creating a massive excuse for inaction, and I eventually tore it up in a liberating orgy of confetti creation. (Only the building's sprinkler system kept me from torching it.)
I've been reading key articles on the 43folders.com site on email management, and I have dipped into The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, for tips on taming the attention-annihilating effects of a boss who communicates near-exclusively via scores of emails. Former Secretary of State Rumsfeld was infamous for (among other reasons best judged by some future Nuremberg trial) blitzing his minions with innumerable notes, a practice dubbed snowflaking. (I personally understand the use of snowflake in the Fight Club sense to "contextualize" a child or other person who believes themselves to be a unique creation; I suspect the same applies to these decillions of Rums-mails.) This is what the ME does, and the email chime is a gateway drug to inspiring in me a wicked fit of netsurfing through the blog feeds. I just give up on getting back on track and fuck around with the Internet for 5 minutes.
This is wrong. If I'm so goddamn important to the success of this pub that they are retaining me rather than moving my job to Central City or cutting me entirely, then I ought to be judged wise enough to govern access to my attention . . . especially when allowing an all-access pass to it trashes my attempts to concentrate solely on single tasks and push them to completion.
Likewise the Internet. What is there, really, out there that commands my aimless browsing attention? I find myself doing this when I come home from work and, fatally, on weekends. Rather than pushing myself into some productive activity, I'll linger to look at feeds and links, and poof! another 15 irreplaceable minutes of my life are gone.
Email. Blogs. Social networking. The whole Internet. Both tools. Not miracles. Not wholly, or in contemplation of any of its Hydra-like nodes, worth every superlative casually lobbed at it. Neither should claim any more attention over your day than is necessary to ask or answer a targeted question that you pose for yourself or are pitched. Are you really going to preside over your 90th birthday and tell the shining faces lining your banquet table that you are grateful for the 230 unread posts you had on this date in your Bloglines account, the thousands of undeleted and useless emails you accumulated at each work and home address, the faceless Facebook "friends" you stacked like lumber in your vital years?
I'm not letting any of that shit, nor their evangelical champions, drive me back into the fucking hospital.