Two months ago, my sister had a baby.
But for all the time she spends feeding him, burping him, changing his diaper, putting him down or picking him up, I’m pretty sure I spend more time each day with my laptop.
True, it lets me sleep through the night, with only an occasional 3am email “ding.” But from the second I get up till I go to bed, that little titanium bastard rules my life.
I check it even before I brush my teeth. Any email? Any @ replies on Twitter? (Oh yeah. Hi, husband. Oh yeah. Coffee. Newspaper.)
I sit at it all day and night, and even take the thing into the bathroom with me to listen to podcasts while I do my makeup. OK, maybe that doesn’t count, because I’m using it as a radio. But still:
There’s an undeniable bond, and it’s created a problem.
I used to procrastinate outright, by doing things that were distinctly non-work to put off doing work. Things that were fun and impulsive — well, maybe more compulsive than impulsive — like watching an entire season of Rescue Me.
Now, because of my attachment with the MacBook, it’s just a barely perceptible shift back and forth between working and not working. A seamless flow from one to the other. I’m either writing what I’m supposed to be writing, or I’m on Twitter or Facebook or Dlisted or Huffingtonpost or Twitter again, and saying, “OK, I’ve got to get back to writing.”
The not working part doesn’t feel like a break. Because I do it in the same position as I do the work: sitting at my desk, hunched over like a hominid.
When my husband comes home, I’m still working. And by “working,” I mean hanging out on Twitter while somewhere under a thousand windows, a cursor blinks away on a word document. The thing is, I really feel like I’m working, because that’s what I’m sitting there to do.
Even if I’ve only accomplished 4 hours of writing and 12 hours of goofing off, it feels like a 16-hour workday by the time I go to bed. My back feels it, too.
What’s the point of procrastinating if it feels like work?
So, I’ve decided to make some changes. It’s only been a few days, but they’ve made me feel way less…gross.
If your disturbingly intimate bond with the computer and online media has made work and goofing off one long, round-the-clock blur, try joining me in these steps to bring meaning back to “not working.” I can use the company.
1. Go back to old-school, offline procrastination.
Watching TV, reading US Magazine, tweezing my eyebrows, going for a walk, buying things I don’t need, talking on the phone. Spending time with real, physical people. The kind you can reach out and poke and spill wine on.
Twitter and Facebook and all that? Sure, as a break after I do my work. But not in between little bitty bits of work. Yay! I wrote a word! Any new followers on Twitter? —No. Bad.
2. When off the computer, close the computer.
Otherwise, if I’m in the house, I won’t stick with my offline procrastination plan. I’ll keep drifting over to the computer. That bitch is like a magnet.
Worse, I’ll just pick it up and bring it over to the couch, where I’ll cradle it on my lap while I watch TV. Then, I can’t even make it through a scene of Ghost Whisperer without rewinding three times, because I’m so distracted by my email. How sad when I’m not disciplined enough to watch TV.
3. Take TweetDeck off my MacBook’s dock.
For you non-addicts, TweetDeck is an application for using Twitter. Quitting out of it but still having its bright yellow icon on the dock is like putting away your coke spoon and saying “no more,” but keeping a mound of coke on your desk. Just guessing. Never did coke. But I’ve read a lot about it. Speaking of which, just started MacKenzie Phillips’ autobiography last night – part of my new analog goofing off plan. It’s not bad.
4. Quit out of Mail while writing.
Everyone knows you’re supposed to do that. I’ve actually started doing it and it works. I don’t know about you, but I cannot ignore a new email. That “ding” is the devil’s mating call.
5. Turn off iPhone while writing.
Come on. What’s the point of quitting out of Mail on the computer if I can still hear emails come in on my phone? I’m on to you, iPhone.
6. Put my husband before the computer.
It wasn’t in our vows, but I’m writing it here as an amendment: Love of my life: I, Laura, won’t ignore you to do work if I’m going to sit and stare at Twitter waiting for an @ reply instead of actually doing work.