Simultaneity


Everyone tries to pair activities by a simple formula.  They try to do something that occupies their mind while they do something that they'd be out of their mind with boredom doing otherwise.  I mean, who doesn't have a magazine rack (or at least stack) next to their toilet?  Almost no one with a central nervous system drives with their radio off if they're alone in the car.  Hell, I not only listen to the radio while I drive; I shave in the car on my way to anywhere I need to look nice for.

In fact, play a little game called How Many Things Can I Do At the Same Time?  I love to have as much going simultaneously as I possibly can, some things I'm actively involved in, some things I'm "actively" doing (but that don't require much brain power), and then there's the stuff I can just set in motion and let play out.

The first category is the most frustrating because I only get to do one of these things at a time.  It's the entree at Luby's, you know?  Even if you tried to tackle more than one, you'd never get through them.  At the same time, I never skip the main course.  I always need to have my mind wrapped around something, whether it's writing something or reading a book or something on the web or listening to audio books or talking on the phone or watching a dvd or whatever I'm going to actually concentrate on.

Of course, even while I'm doing something that my mind is engaged in, there are a lot of genuinely mindless chores I could be doing, so while I'm doing almost any of the above, I might very well be doing something like brushing my teeth, washing the dishes/putting the clean ones away, sorting dirty laundry/hanging up clean laundry, pulling weeds in my yard, cutting the grass, watering plants, sweeping the house, taking out the trash, or even riding my bike.  Even eating.  No one eats without a friend or a newspaper.  Well, except for psychos, and that's usually how you can tell.

Whenever I'm actively involved with something, my hands have to be working on something mindless like the above as well.  My dad (and just about everyone else) hates the fact that as soon as he gets me on the line, he'll hear the clattering of dishes in the background because I'm rinsing them to put in the washer.  I can't help it.

Technology has made it such that we can be connected to people and media while we're just about anywhere, so we use cell phones to communicate while we're grocery shopping the way it once was a big deal to be able to move around the house with a cordless phone.  Not that we have mp3 players, we get to listen to music and audio books while we take a jog or drive to work.  I have a pair of cordless headphones that I run through my computer that let me go as far as a couple houses down without any interruption or degradation of the signal.  That means I'm sometimes out washing my car while listening to This American Life.

Similarly, since I bought the Alphasmart, I've gotten so much writing done during the dead moments we otherwise wring nothing productive out of while waiting in line at the post office or when it isn't my turn to drive on road trips.

Finally, there's that last category of passive things that need to be done but require neither mind nor body because they're automated for our convenience.  Whenever I'm doing any of the above, there are always processes I have running in the background, especially if it's on the computer, things like downloading or defragging or running a backup.  Or around the house I could always have the dishwasher or the dryer running (or leave clothes on the line since it's the summer) or defrosting frozen food so I can microwave it without getting that cold/icy spot in the middle.  The only thing I like about this category is I can pretty much do as many of these I need to at the same time, otherwise I'd never want to do them at all.

Sure, there are a lot of demands pulling all of us in a million directions, but you don't have to be a rocket scientists to be able to pour yourself a drink while you're microwaving your food.  Even if you're doing something, you're probably wasting time if you aren't doing something (or several somethings) at the same time.

Nothing pisses me off faster than hearing/reading comment like "you have too much time on your hands" when someone (especially me) creates something and posts it on YouTube or their page or wherever.  I've commented in a number of ways on how I love the internet for the fact that it showcases creativity of non-professionals, and whenever someone responds to the artistic impulse with an asinine comment along these lines, I'm always tempted to turn it around and ask them how much time they'd need in order to produce something that demonstrates a fraction of the spark found in the work of the artists they deride for the very qualities I admire.  Apparently they have enough time to post comments like these, just not enough to demonstrate any creativity for themselves.

I've given you a recipe for how I get a lot done.  Put this into effect and adapt it for your own lives, and then get back to me with what you've finally produced now that you have too much time on your hands.


Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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