Coffee heat rising

Am I Going Slower? Or Is There Just Too Much to Do?

Now, I know I’m not the first one to think this, because a lot of my friends say the same thing: It seems like the older you get, the harder it is to get to places on time, because it feels like you just can NOT get through all the stuff you have to do to get out the door. Objectively, it can’t be true that there’s just too much to do: after all, we raised kids without feeling that we couldn’t get through all the diddly little tasks on our plates, and nothing will slow you down in your effort to get out the door better than a kid! So, either we’re going slower as we age, or something else is interfering with our progress.

Hint: As I write this, I’m multitasking: trying to fix my breakfast so I can bolt it down before M’hijito gets here with his dog (not gonna make it: it’s already two minutes to eight) while writing a post while being pestered by my own dog while waiting for a video for the magazine-writing class to upload to YouTube.

***

And now that breakfast is done and Charley is here, I’m back in front of the computer where I find that MacMail is AGAIN demanding that I type, retype, and re-retype my password, a cycle that doesn’t stop until you crash out of the mail program. This, it develops, has been a known issue for quite a long time, though I didn’t experience it until upgrading to Lion and moving to the endlessly pointless iCloud. When it starts, thanks to flicking iCloud’s servers, where MacMail now resides, it affects all my computers. And now I can’t get my mail.

So, I’ll have waste some more time wrestling with that while watching the upload to YouTube and then, whenever that video goes online, posting it to the Eng. 235 site.

It’s now 8:27. I’ve been up since 6:00 a.m. and accomplished little more than to bolt down two pieces of toast, two pieces of bacon, and a handful of cut-up oranges. I haven’t been able to read the newspaper. I haven’t put the clean dishes away and loaded the dirty dishes littering the counter into the dishwasher. I haven’t made the bed.

I did at least wash my face and brush my teeth this morning…something I often don’t seem to be able to get at until I actually do have to go out the door.

The ordinary bits and pieces of what once was normal daily life get shunted aside while I try to cope with what looks like work on the computer (but, because it’s paid so little, isn’t real work, IMHO). So…what have I done in the two hours and 31 minutes since I rolled out of the sack?

Checked on upload status of “Interviewing” video
Retrieved  URL, opened video, checked it.
Embedded video in “Lecturoids” section of the website
Also embedded it in a new post, by way of bringing it to stoonts’ attention
Uploaded “Query Letter” video to YouTube
Answered several e-mails
Discussed two projects with business partner, via e-mail
Checked grades for two sections of 102 stoonts; observed great improvement over last fiasco
Mentally blocked out a post for Adjunctorium
Responded (again!!!) to confused Eng 235 stoont
Fed and watered the dog
Got the paper; watered a plant that got missed by the sprinkler system
Fixed coffee; started bacon and toast
Discovered I’d somehow uploaded “Interviewing” as “Query Letter” to YouTube
Got into YouTube account; deleted video
Re-uploaded the “Query Letter” video to YouTube
Read another e-mail; framed answer mentally
Retrieved bacon from microwave; retrieved carbonized toast from toaster
Picked and sliced oranges
Sat down to breakfast
Almost finished when M’hijito showed up with dog; coped with dog bouncing activities
Finished breakfast
Responded to another e-mail from confused stoont
Checked “Query Letter” video on YouTube
Embedded video in Eng 235 post and in “Lecturoids” page; posted both
Came back to this FaM post and continued writing it.

And now I’m about to go zap my cup of stone-cold coffee in the microwave. Gotta respond to that e-mail. Gotta sit down and study for real estate course. Gotta go see what that wacky pup is doing. Gotta check the pool chemicals. Gotta water the new plants. Gotta write a post for Adjunctorium. Gotta work on the client’s project. Gotta update client billing. Gotta work on edits for book-length piece of pseudo-lit-crit. Which reminds me…yes: pseudo can work on its own as an adjective. Did I forget to mark that in the middle of the night? Bet I did. Gotta search back pages of pseudo lit-crit; delete hyphen.

Gaaaaahhhhhhhh!

***

Well. The 50-ton digital elephant in the room is…what?

The computer!

e-mail
blogs
iCloud
YouTube videos
more e-mail
online courses
still more e-mail
{plink!} Facebook notice
more e-mail
Google calendar reminder: teleconference in 20 minutes

About 90% of this stuff wouldn’t have occupied time “back in the day,” because it didn’t exist. As for the constant onslaught of e-mail messages: People felt no great need to be “connected” and so refrained from blitzing everyone with their thought of the moment. More phone calls took place, probably, and those did take time; but nothing like as many phone calls were made as e-mails today. Business memos (up to 100 a day pour in from the community colleges) were distributed in hard copy, and because printing the things cost time and money, a lot fewer messages were emitted.

Look at the vast amount of my time that’s consumed with computer-related tasks. I’m squeezing my life in around them—barely finding time to wash up and get breakfast by the 8:00 a.m. deadline; barely finding time to gather what I need to do before I have to leave the house; dropping the newspaper before I’ve even read a page so as to get back to the chores waiting on the computer… Life has become nonstop gestalt: every single thing you do is interrupted constantly by demands from e-mail, online calendars, and work that didn’t even exist before life became digitized. In the Dark Ages, the work that did exist—say, publicizing your business—happened in discrete chunks. It wasn’t something you had to do unendingly over Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress.

Maybe it’s not old age. Maybe our lives really, objectively are out of control.

9 thoughts on “Am I Going Slower? Or Is There Just Too Much to Do?”

  1. I’m constantly amazes at your boundless energy and the amount that you manage to squeeze into each day!!

  2. E-mail was wrecking my life. That’s not even an exaggeration, lol.

    I have 80 stoonts (well, whittled down a bit now, but still a significant amount). I was drowning in email, and it was really taking over every other activity. I couldn’t stop checking it and it seemed so important. I finally had a little talk with myself and decided that if a student wants to send me an email at 2:00 in the a.m. because they want me to get to it right before a 9:30 class, I’m under NO obligation to respond to it at the speed of light. It’s a lesson to them to manage their time more effectively. It’s not my job to start work way beyond when I get to the office by essentially doing what adds up to five minutes here, fifteen minutes there of email response.

    So now I check them twice a day — once in the mid-morning, and once in the late afternoon/early evening as I’m winding down for home. I don’t always follow my own rule, but my sanity improved tremendously. I may still check email for specific things like other business mails, mails from Her Deanliness, etc. But I won’t answer the student ones except during those times. Another thing I do that seems to help is if I get three mails from students virtually questioning the same thing, I’ll just send a group mail to the class, because I assume I’m going to get several more in the same vein. Then I will open but not respond to other similar mails from students.

    It’s not a perfect system, and in many ways I’m still swamped with email. But I’m at least treading water, if not swimming to the shore!

  3. @ Budget Glamorous: Well said!

    And really, IMHO unless they’re in an online or hybrid course that’s mostly online, students should not expect us to answer their e-mails after working hours (or maybe even outside of posted office hours!), over weekends, or over holidays. That’s one thing I figured out a while back but have had a tough time enforcing…for exactly the reason you describe. E-mail has a feeling of urgency, even though most of it is negligible.

    I make an effort to limit the e-mail surfing, but as a practical matter I’m insatiably curious, & so if I’m near the computer or iPad, it’s hard not to take a peek at what’s on the server. And of course the instant you bite, you’re reeled in.

    When I was teaching and directing a writing program, I would have phone calls coming in constantly. In self-defense, I set up voicemail so I could screen calls. If it wasn’t something truly urgent, it would have to wait until I got around to answering my calls, once or twice a day.

    Most calls and e-mails can wait. Well…unless they’re from Her Deanship. Deans are dangerous.

  4. I had a student send me an email just before our Spring Break (which I’m currently immensely enjoying) telling me she wanted to keep in “close contact” with me over break as she worked on missing papers. Of course she was one of those students who should’ve dropped, wouldn’t and now is clawing for life. I told her kindly I was on vacation to. So no. Honestly. Sometimes I think they believe I’m a round-the-clock slave to their every demand.

  5. @ Budget Glamorous: Indeed they do. And the interesting thing is, there are some schools that set as a policy for faculty teaching online that you will respond to student e-mails within x number of hours, 7 days a week. I finally drew the line and decided that I don’t care what GDU’s policy is, I was not then and certainly am not now paid enough to justify working on weekends.

    Are you not allowed to set a no-late-papers policy? We can do that if we put it in the syllabus, and mercifully, our chair is highly supportive. If you refuse to take late papers, you get head off a lot of those students who can’t keep up and really should drop…usually can clear them out by 45th Day. Even if they don’t drop, you excuse yourself from having to read rafts of late papers, which is something that will keep you underwater all semester long.

    Simply refusing to read late papers unless they can show you an explanation by a doctor on a doctor’s (or undertaker’s) letterhead helps a lot in getting a grip on the gestalt craziness.

  6. I can refuse to give them feedback on it as punishment, and I’ve done that before, but since all the courses are portfolio based, they can always submit them up to and including the very end of the semester.

    • Portfolios…ugh, I’ve done that, too.

      What evidence, is there, really, that portfolios or endless peer reviews and rewrites help students to produce better work? Over the years, I’ve developed a growing suspicion about some of the theories we apply to our students.

      Matter of fact, I’m just about to sit down and write on the subject for Adjunctorium. Overslept — it’s almost 6 a.m. — so I may not finish before it’s time to start racing, but I intend to get that post online today.

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