Friday, December 31, 2010

What Do You Get?

In the mid 1950's, singer Tennessee Ernie Ford had a hit with the song "Sixteen Tons". The chorus went, in part, "You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." On this last night of 2010, I find myself asking a similar question. "It's the end of the year, and what do you get?" Certainly, another year older, but no longer in debt for the first time in over 40 years! Our goal is to remain that way. What else did we get? A good feeling, the feeling of independence, and the freedom to pursue new adventures in 2011. What else did we get? We got two weeks in Alaska. We got memories of brown bears and wolves, moose and caribou in Denali National Park, of Mt. McKinley exposing its summit through the clouds, of massive ice bergs calving off Hubbard Glacier, and of eagles fishing the Mendenhall River near Juneau. In 2010 we mourned and celebrated the lives of friends and family members who departed this world for the next. They shall not grow older as we grow older. There were none like them before and surely none shall follow in their stead. They are sorely missed. But now, it's 2011 and what do we get? We get the promise of a new year! Where we have met our current goals, we get a "keep up the good work!" Where we have fallen short, we get a "do over." Where we want to re-invent or re-image parts of ourselves we get the opportunity to do so, or to try and try again. And this opportunity is renewed every day. In 2011, I resolve to make the most of every second of every minute of every day -- to be all that I can be, and to live every instant to the absolute fullest. I resolve to pursue every opportunity placed before me. And I resolve to enjoy myself in the process. May you also be blessed with limitless opportunities to be everything of which you are capable.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Multi-tasking -- Who? Me?

I have a confession to make.

 In accordance with the advice of some of the most well-respected authorities on effectiveness and efficiency, I don't multi-task.

Neither do I single task particularly well.

Rather, I tend to ping from task to task like riccochet rabbit, hitting a lick here and a lick there as first one thing and then another captures or forces its way into the center of my attention.  Somehow, in the chaos of bouncing from task to task like a ping-pong ball in a clothes dryer, work gets done. Somehow, in the midst of the interuptions, thoughts get put on paper. Somehow, the analysis get completed and the report gets produced. Somehow.

At the end of the day, I feel like I've spent much of my time spinning my wheels, and I am exhausted.

I am capable of single tasking. If a task is compelling enough, I have been known to pursue it to the exclusion of all else. But such compelling tasks are few and far between, and all tasks, compelling or not, require dedicated time and effort to bring to completion.

Keeping current project and action lists and attempting to order my efforts by those lists helps, but not always.

Closing my door helps, but again not always.

Attempting to keep my desk clear of all except that on which I'm working also helps and I'm getting better at it.


I'm working on improving my focus, but focus is fragile. I can disconnect from the internet, but can't ignore the person who knocks on the door to ask "Did you get my email?" and then proceeds to spend the next fifteen minutes explaining something for which no immediate action is needed. By the time the subject is sufficiently dealt with, time has passed, focus is gone, and starting over is the only option.

Is there any solution short of mayhem?

Maybe I could seal my door with crime-scene tape. Maybe the answer is to pack up my laptop and files, occupy a table in a corner of the cafeteria or an unoccupied office, and bang out whatever is needed.

If anyone asks, I'm not available. I'm hiding out, single tasking, being productive.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not a Minimalist

I am not a minimalist. Those who have visited my comfortably cluttered household will agree that I am not a minimalist. I read and enjoy minimalist blogs like Zen Habits, Becoming Minimalist, and even to name a few. I read of challenges to live for 30 days with only 30 items of clothing, or to pare ones possessions to less that 100 items, or to live in a tiny house or apartment of less than 200 square feet. I have even taken steps to allow me to work from wherever I am to the point that I am writing this post on a netbook from my easy chair with a cup of coffee at my elbow. The point is that few if any of these challenges fits my life style, wants and desires. I desire not necessarily minimalism, but abundance, and not complexity but simplicity. And I desire not the simplicity of earlier times -- I don't want to return to the days of chopping wood, drawing water, and using an outhouse -- but the convenience of today, with central heat, modern plumbing, and inside facilities. Unlike Thoreau, I don't really want to spend two years in the woods contemplating the simple life. I want to live it today in suberbia! I want to live it among things that I enjoy. And, since I can only really enjoy things I use, I want to either divest myself of all of the things I no longer use or bring them out and use them. If I don't use it, I can't enjoy it and if I can't enjoy it, I might as well not have it. Life is too short not to use your best.