Monday, February 13, 2012

Interrupt-driven Lives

Meet the Life Hackers - New York Times

I apologize up front for the corrupt use of the programming concept.  I didn't start this, but it sure works for me, so I'm running with it.  

Translated into Human Speak, the big question here is "How much of your time is spent multitasking?"  Oh, I know that's all the rage these days.  I had a dressage instructor once who yelled at me for being so limited in my ability to multitask in the saddle.  If you're not a multitasking, you're somewhere below dirt on the totem pole.  In the classroom, I prided myself on being on top of every interruption--and if ever there is an interrupt-driven task, it's teaching high school kids anything.  It's in the job description.  But there's a point where both self-  and other-directed multitasking takes a toll on one's productivity in every aspect of life.

By "other-directed", I mean driven by interruptions and demands from outside oneself.  It's bad enough, in my not-so-humble opinion, that we've developed a societal knack for self-interruption.  Some of that is just human nature.  I'm sure there was an Early Man who, in the midst of mammoth hunting and fire starting suddenly realized he hadn't brushed the dirt off his pile of twigs bed in a month and needed to get on that right away.  To do that, he needed a new branch with flat leaves, so his hunt took on a distracted air.  Perhaps he even came upon the fire thing along the mammoth trail when his spear head nicked a rock and sent up a spark that got him distracted.  Maybe he "put a pin in it" (or "a rock on it") for later, or maybe he stopped and checked it out.  Hard to say since his iPad probably wasn't charged enough to take a memo.  

The Organized Life is one with some sense of decorum.  I'm trying to regain that even as I type.  For the first time in ages, I lined up the postcards and notes reminding me of the appointments I needed to make, and I made all the calls in order this morning before I fired up my email app.  I felt incredibly liberated!  Not only are those chores no longer hanging over me, but I actually got through them all without once getting up to do something else that would have led to still another activity (because nothing spawns nothing), and so on.

Invitation to Multitask: 
My tack room is an attention sponge.

Nowhere is my Interrupt Drive in higher gear than in the barn.  It's my first stop in the morning before breakfast, and I can almost guarantee that I walk through the door these days without a plan other than to make sure the barn is still standing.  Oh, I might be harboring some vague thought about what I'll do in the afternoon, but that's a whole half-day away.  I walk through the door, and if the phone doesn't ring (the most common interrupt sequence in my personal coding is a call from someone needing to rant or asking for information or advice that has nothing to do with the task at hand), there's probably an unidentified sound coming from the loft that needs to be checked out.  While I'm up there, and assuming I don't fall off a hay bale like last week and whack my head, leading to an entirely new event sequence, I make note of which hay we're using now based on the color of the twine.  And perish the thought that I actually put the feed into the buckets without stopping to rehang some tack or improve my saddle pad feng shui

If I'm lucky, by the time I walk out of the barn, I've accomplished something that moves my barely-recognized plan forward.  That's not guaranteed.  So add on the multiple false starts requiring house-to-barn-to-house transits.

The end result of just this one task event (and it truly is an event) is that I feel frustrated and at loose ends.  And it's in that frame of mind that I'm supposed to approach my horses (not to mention family and other humans) and work with them.  Really?  Is it any wonder that Zip sometimes catches me unaware with one of his tricks--usually the one that involves clipping me behind the knee with his front hoof as I'm not in position when he gives me his leg to brush--and a whole new event is launched?  

Can I talk on the phone and email at the same time?  No.  Not well.  I sent a rambling email one day to my lawyer because while I was emailing him my question, I was also on the phone with my daughter answering hers.  The mish-mosh that resulted was comical at worst, but it could have been seriously damaging to the lawyer's opinion of my intellectual ability if that weren't already in doubt.  

Can I read the instructions on the bottle of meds while I'm using it on the horse and talk to a friend who dropped by to pick up the coupons from the Sunday paper?  No.  Not at all.  That's the sort of thing that leads to powdered meds being smeared on the mare's butt without the required addition of water. 

Can I get my horse's attention while mine is scattered all over?  Do I really need to answer that?  

Read the article from the Times about the "Life Hackers" and weep.  We have met the enemy, and they are multitasking.   

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