Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Daily Life: Zoom - Or The Impact of Single Tasking

I think many people in our current world multitask. We do more than one thing at once, layering them together, interweaving them like a tapestry. One of my New Year's resolutions was to spend more time single tasking this year. Focus on doing what I am doing, as I am doing it. I've been doing it for six months now and it has pretty much settled into habit.

It has certainly made the time fly by. This week is a classic example - I am three days through a four day and week and it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. In ten working days I will start my vacation and be blessedly free of work for a remarkable 17 straight days (counting the overlapping weekends). I cannot remember when hung that much time off on a single thread.

Additionally, for the first time is about five years I am going on vacation without a major program, project, or problem hanging over me. It the previous years when I have gone on vacation I have always had to take my work laptop, so I could attend meetings, teleconferences, review data, etc. This time - I am leaving it behind!*

There have been some unintended side-effects though. In addition to the aforementioned flow of time I also suspect it is related to my feeling that I am not writing as much as I normally do, nor as diversely as I normally do. Often, especially when I was home, I would have the laptop fired up while I was doing other things - I would write while watching a movie, or I would write while playing guitar, or I would write while eating dinner.

I am pretty sure that in the space between spaces I was carving out an extra hour a day or more to write. The other observation is this - I seem to be one of those people who is both more outgoing and more productive when I am crunched for time. I suspect it is because the time crunch means I have to be better at managing my time and carve out specific blocks of time to do those things that I want to do.

I can also attribute part of the feeling of a lack of productivity to the iPhone. The iPhone has a touch screen key pad and, in my experience with it, it is no where near as convenient or as quick as thumb typing on the QWERTY keyboard in a Blackberry or any other device that has an actual keyboard. The iPhone is fine for firing off short notes and texting, but for anything longer, it is just not as good - it is purely hunt and peck. On the Blackberry I could write entire paragraphs and long documents with ease.

Finally, I think there has been a third influence and that is the Amazon Kindle 2. I am already a rather voracious reader and the convenience of the Kindle 2 has definitely increased the amount of time I spend reading - if you can afford one, and you are a voracious reader, well, I definitely give that device both thumbs up. The application that allows you to read your Kindle 2 books on the iPhone also gets a big thumb's up from me. Basically what it means is that, wherever I go, I have the current book I am reading with me. I am sure some of the time that used to be spent in incidental writing has fallen over into the incidental reading category.

So, I am single tasking, time is flying, and I am enjoying myself but trying to figure out how to carve more time to write out of my day. I am pretty sure it is just a matter of applying some discipline and focus and over the next couple of weeks I am going to try and move over into that space. I think that is really the only tweak I want to make in my 2009 New Years Resolutions.

*It is more of a psychological thing than anything else, I will take my personal laptop with me on vacation and I'll be able to access work email from there via VPN, but it will be a different feeling because I won't HAVE to do. Funny how that single phrase "you have to do it" can turn into a burden.

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