Greg Knauss is blogging again. This is good news because sometimes he makes me laugh hysterically enough to frighten passers by and sometimes he cuts right to the bone about what's really going on that I've been sweeping under my mental rug.
I've been under a lot of stress and it seems like even though I'm doing the right things to reduce it, I'm only able to make so much progress before I get that drowning feeling again. Well, like the old Boomtown Rats song says "maybe it's because I'm sinking".
Greg pins it down in "The Back-Logged Life":
My entire life has devolved
into an endless, grinding slog through my back-log. Everything I do is
about catching up, doing the stuff I didn't get done the day before,
plowing through some other goddamned thing that needs my attention.
Ending the day without actually adding to the total aggregate is a
victory. There are times when it piles up faster than I can shovel it
And the computers are at fault, of course. Always the computers.
The tools I use to manage information have evolved to the point
where I can abdicate the tedious process of gathering it all together
to them, and they now do a very diligent job of making sure that it's
all brought to my attention. Endlessly. Maddeningly.
Years ago, someone phoned you and
you weren't home, you missed the call and they had to try back — now,
the messages queue up in voice-mail. TV shows used to slip unwatched by
unless you were there to suck them up them in real-time — today, my
TiVo has hours of mindless crap that it's faithfully holding
for me. The Web originally required me to actually go out and do
something as quaint as visit sites to read them — these days, my feed
reader pulls down megabytes of data — a large portion of it, of
course, cat pictures — and piles it up, forever. Each of these swollen
reservoirs of data silently mocks me with my inadequacy.
Go read the whole thing, it's very good. Greg's solution is different than mine – probably more effective – but I'm not quite ready to take the radical move-it-or-lose-it approach and discard everything older than a certain date.
What I am doing is increasing the efforts I've already started – reduce the incoming stream and process that stream more quickly – while adding a new element, completion by deletion.
In Getting Things Done terms, I'm going to start dropping a lot of things which would go on my Someday/Maybe list.
Here's the rationale: that magic day when I'm all caught up on the things higher up on the list – either in priority or urgency or both – and get to this stuff will never come. I am never going to get down to the Someday/Maybe folder. What makes those things get done is they have to climb up out of that low level and catch my attention again. If they become important or urgent, they will.
Pare down. Then, later, if you're all caught up, you can add back on (or not).
So, today do some thinking about what comes into your life, creating a backlog, and decide what you can live (happier) without:
– consider cancelling your Netflix subscription and not using Tivo's recommendation feature;
– consider cancelling or reducing magazine and newspaper subscriptions – at least abandon any feeling of obligation that you have to read the whole thing;
– live with only one voicemail (I use the one on my mobile phone, so there's no blinking little light when I come home);
– consider unsubscribing from all, or most, or at least many of your email lists and feeds;
– get yourself off catalog and junk mail lists;
– don't buy books unless you're going to start reading them within the next 48 hours;
– eliminate all but 2 of the "read next" stack of books – loan 'em to someone, donate 'em to the library, sell 'em, whatever, but eliminate the nagging;
– recycle all the half-read magazines and newspapers lying around – or put them in on 48 hour warning and then recycle them;
– figure out which mail aliases and listservs you are on at work that you never have opportunity to read and then see about getting off them;
– review your to-do lists and cross off anything that is unimportant, non-urgent, and will remind you of itself later if you wind up really needing/wanting to do it.
That last one is really important:
As of today, redefine your to-do list as Things I Need To Think About This Week. If you can ignore it for a week, it either belongs on your calendar or you can just let it slip. If it matters, it will come back.