Monday, October 22, 2007

Computers: Tools, or tyrants?

Hmm. This post by my twitter friend Maria Langer has got me thinking about the lure of the computer, the internet, and their ability to infiltrate every waking moment in a geek's life--not always for the better.

I don't watch TV, to speak of. Yes, I'll turn it on once or twice a week during football season, partially because I'm a rabid UCLA fan, but also because I just like watching the game. Occasionally, I'll watch a movie, but this is on the order of about once a month or two. But mostly, the TV stays off, and I'm glad my life isn't ruled by what's on during primetime. Unfortunately--and I'm being completely honest here--I don't have the same self-control when it comes to my computer, smartphone, and iPod. I'm a gadget geek to logarithmic proportions, and I know full well that those can have the same frustrating effects on life and productivity.

For those of us who fight ADD and its related impulses, the computer is both friend and foe. It's obviously a useful tool, and since I'm big on integrating technology into my classes, I am forced to spend a lot of time in front of the keyboard. The geek in me doesn't begrudge that one bit, since I enjoy tinkering, learning, and keeping up on networking trends (lately, the uses and misuses of social media) is informative and fun. The problem, I think, is that in my business, the lines between work and the kind of play that intrigues me are so blurry as to be indistinguishable. When I surf around to people's blogs on barcamp and Startup Weekend, am I working or goofing off? Both, it seems, and because of that, it's damned difficult to set limits on either one. What do I miss as a result? Well, time to exercise, housework, practice, walk with the dogs, etc. I do all those things (well, most of them... housework has a tendency to drop off the priority list a lot), but I'm sure I don't get to them as soon as I should.

What's the solution? Well, I don't know... I think Maria's computer-less days might be one way to de-tox. Putting myself on a strict schedule is probably going to be a must, since one reality of my work is that I have to be reachable for at least a while each day. Since I tend to abhor structure (but secretly need it), scheduling is likely to be an interesting exercise. Anyone have suggestions for making it work?

Meanwhile, I'll try shutting the computer down when I leave my office in the next hour and leaving it in my bag until, say, 10pm. After that I make no promises, but I'll see what I can do. Wish me luck!


Maria Langer said...

It's good to see that I'm not the only one thinking about this.

Not all computer use is "goofing off." The trick is to honestly recognize when what you're doing on a computer is a waste of time. The definition of "waste" will vary from person to person. A severely handicapped individual stuck indoors with a computer as his only interactive activity is probably not wasting time by participating in chats. But a 25-year-old, healthy person with friends or family nearby probably is wasting time by playing a video game on a beautiful day. It's all relative.

A computerless day is tough -- especially if you're accustomed to spending a lot of time in front of a computer. But I had so much success with mine yesterday that I think I might make a habit of it.

Craig Overend said...

I saw this Dilbert and thought of this post. :) Have a HIT You know you want to.