News

The value of breaking news (news = whatever is new to you) is dramatically overrated, and the cost of keeping up with what someone else thinks is urgent is just too high.

If it’s important today, it will be important tomorrow. Far more productive to do the work instead of monitoring what’s next.

[Exceptions: Emergency room doctors, producers at CNN, day traders.]
Seth Godin, Day old news is fresh enough

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Distracted

OK, let’s set a few baselines here:

  1. Nobody can focus anymore
  2. Because of the internet

Agreed?

Now, as someone who wants more than anything to make things that others will like, I find my lack of focus deeply upsetting. Making things — for me this means writing, usually, and sometimes website making, and more recently audio; but for you it could be whatever, felting, song writing, whatever — usually requires a phase of thrashing boredom before it gets any good for me. In that period of time, the thrashing bit, I am like a junkie trying to get through withdrawal. I will tell you anything if you let me out of this room. I am all better now. There are demons in here. You are torturing me and must not love me. Please let me out…

…The issue, of course, is that I am both the junkie trying to kick down the door and the person standing outside the door holding it closed. (I told you: I AM KEEPING THE METAPHOR.) This is good old will power. If I want to get through this blog post, for instance, the part of me holding the door shut needs to be stronger than the person trying to get out.

The internet, and my computer more generally, is like kryptonite to the guy holding the door shut. Rather than holding the door shut, I check Facebook, Twitter, my email, Daring Fireball, Pitchfork, rdio, my own blog stats, ET CETERA.

An hour will go by before I realize the door has been opened and I haven’t written or edited a thing.

—Matthew Latkiewicz, Your Contexts Are Broken; or How to Make Your Computer Dumber and Yourself Smarter

I have the sensation, as do my friends, that to function as a proficient human, you must both “keep up” with the internet and pursue more serious, analog interests. I blog about real life; I talk about the internet. It’s so exhausting to exist on both registers, especially while holding down a job. It feels like tedious work to be merely conversationally competent. I make myself schedules, breaking down my commute to its most elemental parts and assigning each leg of my journey something different to absorb: podcast, Instapaper article, real novel of real worth, real magazine of dubious worth. I’m pretty tired by the time I get to work at 9 AM.

—Alice Gregory, Sad as Hell

How do I decide what is important to me at any given moment? How do I filter my information stream? How do I balance my desire to explore ideas and events with my desire to stay sane? How does an ADHD OCPD knowledge worker cope?

I have no answers for these questions just yet, but finding some is essential in order for me to continue to do the work I’ve chosen to do. Next stop: Rescue Time.*

* Well, that was a waste of time.