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October 12, 2016

Published onOct 12, 2016
October 12, 2016

It’s 11:30 and I haven’t written my 500 words yet. Fuck. This has been one of those days where a few extra hours really would have come in handy. But as I discussed with my girlfriend last night, doing so while keeping the Earth habitable would be surprisingly hard. Slowing the Earth’s rotation (by, I assume, strapping a rocket to it and firing it in the opposite direction) would presumably have horrific effects on weather and tidal patterns, not to mention send it spinning out of orbit thanks to lost angular momentum. Keeping the spin rate constant but making the surface area of the globe bigger would probably fuck all kinds of things up by increasing the gravitational pull of the Earth. And let’s not even get started with actually trying to slow time down. First of all, we don’t even really know what time is! Second of all, slowing it down wouldn’t actually accomplish anything, because we’d still experience time in our native frame of reference. And finally, a neuroscientist friend assures me that it would be impossible to change our frame of references by somehow speeding up our brain’s processing speed (yes, this option has occurred to me), even if we use nanobots!

So, I reluctantly admit: the real thing to do is probably make myself less busy (or less prone to procrastination). I’ve read all the science about 6 hour work days, about the power of focusing and single-tasking and why doing less leads to accomplishing more. But it’s psychologically difficult to get there, because…well, I think because we’re just not wired, as a species, to be satisfied.

Or maybe it’s our technology, which demands an increasing amount of front-brain attention? A new spate of studies have come out in the last few weeks about just how addictive we design our devices — or more accurately, the apps we use on them —to be. And hoo boy have I been feeling that of late, especially with the election glaring at us like your uncle’s crazy neighbor down the barrel of his sawed-off rifle. Sorry, I promised myself not to write about the election, but there it is.

I’ve also promised myself not to blame technology for my woes. After all, the academics (or their historical equivalents) have had a multi-thousand-year knack for claiming the harsh end of life as we know it of just about everything we humans invent to relieve ourselves from the burden of labor. I’m sure fire was roundly condemned for burning things down in its day. I’m sure we can adjust to phones.

In the meantime, it’s interesting to observe that it’s rarely the the actual, bulleted, top tasks that keep me up into the night. I get my shit done. What suffers is doing them well. What always seems to come up short is the time for the extra polish, the once- or twice-over, the final edit. In short, all the satisfying shit. And that may be why being busy is so unbearably unsatisfying. You can still manage to get things done in 24 hours, you just can’t stop to enjoy it.

By Gabriel Stein on October 13, 2016.

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Exported from Medium on October 22, 2020.


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