Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting over e-mail

The last few days, I've managed to accomplish a lot of personal projects. I've cleaned a bunch of my house, made and found homes for "new" things, prepared some meals for lunches, repaired broken gadgets, blogged, and even purged some old electronics that have been broken beyond repair for years (all of which had their full original packaging). For as long as I can remember, I've so busy doing things for groups I'm involved with (or indulging in entertainment to recover form all that work) that domestic affairs have fallen by the wayside. I mean, why do something that benefits only myself when I could do something that benefits many?

I'm not sure why I'm so productive all of a sudden, but I've got a few theories.

Maybe I'm just high from overexposure to social situations (curse you, friends and local bloggers!), or maybe my brain is trying to cope with my cash flow problems by occupying me with free work. I've also re-discovered the addictive computer game Jardinains, which has the side benefit of mindless fun.

Normally, I'm most productive when I'm overrun with things to do and I develop a new scheme for tracking them. I tend to change schemes every six months or so. But very few of the items I've completed recently are the type of project that would ever make it onto any to-do list. Maybe the absence of a tracking scheme is the new tracking scheme, and I'm just getting through the things on that non-list.

Then there's the fact that none of these tasks were particularly important. Usually I don't get things done because there's some important deadline looming for a big project and I spend all my time procrastinating and agonizing over the fact that I'm not doing it. I might procrastinate by accomplishing a less important task, but doing so comes with the guilt that I'm spending productive energy by not doing the top item. I don't have any major time-sensitive projects coming due soon, so my current productivity burst isn't from that kind of pressure. Though things have been crazy busy at work...

I've also been really tired during the day this week. Really, really tired, like how you get when you barely slept the previous night. But I've been getting solid nights of sleep. Maybe this fatigue means there's something else happening, like a hormonal or vitamin imbalance that is a common cause for the fatigue and the productivity.

But I really think it has to do with my breakup with e-mail. There would be nights when I'd come home from work, check my e-mail, and by the time I've finished, it's too late to eat dinner and sometimes even too late to get a full night of sleep. A couple nights like that in a row can leave me very undernourished, which causes all sorts of troubles.

Lately, I've approached my e-mail inbox with a very light touch. Last week I had pushed aside a few long e-mails (e.g. links to reports) to read on the weekend, and on the weekend I barely checked my e-mail at all. I'll ignore group discussions for a couple days, then read up on the entire subject all at once. Most of the time, problems have already been resolved, and anything I'd have said was already said by somebody else. If I do have to contribute, it's minimal--a couple suggestions to add to the discussion, or an acknowledgement. All that's left is to categorize the thread and archive it. Once I get my inbox back to a certain number of unread messages (currently at 650 660), I don't feel bad about closing the Gmail window and doing something else.

Why is this so important? Because I'm a packrat, and an information-hoarder. My Gmail account is my memory; it documents everything I need to do, and everything I've done. It is a reference library of schedules, meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence, committee work, arguments, contact information, et cetera. If I'm trying to remember what happened on a certain date, my first stop is Gmail. If I vaguely recall talking with somebody about something, I search my Gmail for that discussion to recall it. If someone phones me up to ask me to do something, I tell them to e-mail me a reminder, or else I'll probably forget. Most message threads have a half dozen or so different labels on them, so that I can filter them accordingly. My Gmail archive (currently at 35% capacity) goes back to 2005 when I got my Gmail account, and even earlier now that I've uploaded via imap all the messages from my previous inbox.

So for me to say I've become apathetic about e-mail is kinda like the Bishop saying he's no longer into the whole God thing (or whatever it is Bishops do..moving diagonally?): it's a radical paradigm shift. For me to be spontaneously productive (and paradoxically tired at the same time) is even stranger.

I guess I could waste my time trying to figure it out. Or maybe it'll pass. In the meantime, if it works, why bother asking why?

- RG>


Woodsy said...

It seems the only thing many of us Bloggers do not procrastinate about is reading each others blogs.

Have you had your iron checked recently? That might explain your fatigue.

RealGrouchy said...

Have I ahd my iron checked recently?!? Is that like the "is your fridge running" prank? My iron is just fine. It sits on the ironing board; it was recently elected to its third term.

I do take iron and vitamin D. The last time I complained to my doctor about fatigue she said "maybe it's just you" and dismissed my request for bloodwork. Maybe I should try again.

- RG>

Asteroidea Press said...

Yeah, press your doctor about it. If I'm getting enough sleep and still exhausted, it's always my iron. Get your B12 checked as well.

RealGrouchy said...

Naw, can't be my iron; I gave blood to day on the spurt of the moment (right in the atrium of the NCC offices--confirming rumours of the NCC's vampirism) and the iron test was excellent as always.

- RG>

jason said...

Well done! Reading email less frequently is like a secret weapon of productivity.

I've even started collecting and processing my snail mail only once a week. Bonus: I'm never disappointed by an empty mailbox.

What else could we batch up?

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of stuck at the part where you forget to eat. Who does that? How can you forget to eat? My entire day consists of meals and finding stuff to do to pass the time between meals. Also, you might think you're getting lots of sleep, but you might not be getting quality sleep. You may have sleep apnea issues or another sleep disorder you might not be aware of. Is your mouth really dry in the morning? Does your jaw, shoulders, head or neck ache? Are you having trouble concentrating on stuff? But ya, it could also be a nutritional thing considering you FORGET TO EAT!

RealGrouchy said...

megan - I saw you at the coffeeshop the other day, but by the time I recognized you it was too late. Say hi next time you see me!

jason - I also batch up my snail mail. What else can we bacth up? All meetings should be on Mondays. That way, while you might not be able to go to all of them, your time is much more available the rest of the week.

XUP - my mouth is always dry; I'm always sipping on fluids. I should mention that I snack almost constantly, and that "not eating" tends to refer to actual meals. Though come to think of it, I haven't eaten anything yet today...

- RG>