I’ve been going just a touch more lightly on the interactive side of the net recently. Showing up a bit less frequently on MUCKs, not maniacally switching IM clients from desktop to cell phone to laptop to cell phone.
I’ll confess that this hasn’t entirely been intentional. Yesterday I simply forgot the Sidekick, so I didn’t connect with it while I was out. And I pulled back from the MUCKs in part due to NaNoWriMo, and in part due to a fairly typical seasonal burnout I go through.
I am, however, reminding myself that I just get more done when I’m not trying to carry on a half-dozen online conversations scattered across five windows at once. This seems obvious enough on its surface; it’s the same principle behind the common advice of not reading and responding to every e-mail when it comes in at work. If you do, you’ll be interrupting yourself fairly constantly, and you don’t just lose the time it takes to tend to the interruption–you lose the time it takes to get your brain back on track after the interruption’s been taken care of, too. (As much as we like to think the human brain is a great multitasker, most of us seem to be much slower at context switching than we admit.) This is particularly bad for me on a computer, since just about all of my frequently-neglected personal projects do, in fact, take place in front of the same computer providing the temptation to dally with net conversation.
The Sidekick doesn’t contribute to the same level of frenetic attention-sucking, if only because it can’t, but it’s still both a distraction and a temptation. Checking messages, making sure I’m available on IM, seeing what people have sent while I’m driving, maybe I could open a terminal window and check e-mail or page mail…
I’m not unplugging or making any “no net” pledges, but I’m going to try to keep leaving AIM off more often on the Sidekick. (It’s been so long since I’ve been offline that way that it feels like a new experience.) And I’m going to try to stop myself from the game of idling in hopes something interesting will happen. I have other interesting things that I need to make happen.
I don’t know when I got as scatterbrained as I’ve been feeling the past–well, really the past several years, but it’s been particularly bad through 2005. I’m not sure exactly how to fix this, but I think NaNoWriMo contains a clue: focus on just one thing, and stay focused on it. My attempt to do that for NaNoWriMo itself had pretty mixed results, but I suspect the only thing to do about that is to just keep trying.