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Friday, May 26, 2006

Flood, pestilence and the penalties of procrastination... Part Three

Finally, the procrastinations.

I am not a fan of those self-help books that overpopulate the bookshelves in the local Barnes and Noble or Borders stores. I am especially dismissive of the stack of such works found around my house where both spouse and children seem to go on organizing binges every so often.

But I am at the point of surrender, for this has probably been one of the busiest and most frustrating semesters I've experienced in terms of being overcommitted and unable to sustain any semblance of order in my life. Papers are piled high and deep on tables, desks and floors (which makes the high costs of intermittent flooding more so). Not only at home, but in my office at the University as well. Until very recently my email software indicated that I had more than 2000 unread emails -- that's right, UNREAD! -- dating back to last October.

How did I get into such a fix? More important, how do I get out of it?

Getting there wasn't easy -- lots of commitments (too many) involving "pre-occupying" projects (the kinds of things that don't allow you to do anything else other than obsess on the deadline) and a medication-induced lack of anxiety (despite the benefits of having lost my "rage" to the daily dose of beta-blocking Atenolol, there are drawbacks -- I have also lost that "edge" that drove me to keep up with the demands of my life). I had also gotten use to a different pace of life while spending two years in Belfast away from the daily grind of teaching and administration -- and seeing the household bills come through the mail slot.... The readjustment has been relatively smooth, but now I am paying the price by having to spend a couple of months (yes, it will take that long!) making up for the slippage in my life....

How to get out of this hole I've pleasantly dug for myself? Well, I started to read some of those books -- or at least to scan a few web sites about them. Spent many hours considering the option and I felt a possible solution was at hand -- until I realize a couple of weeks ago that this search of a self-help option is just another form of procrastination.

Nevertheless, I have now adopted an approach that seems to be working -- at least on my emails. We are now down to 938 unread emails, the oldest dating from last December, but only 105 from this week. Believe it or not, that is great progress, and I am on a roll!!!

The "system" I've adopted is tied to some self-help guru, and it is based on the idea that you just have to sort things out, toss those that you can't do anything about, and clear, delegate or file the rest. I started to apply that to the email situation about two weeks ago, and I hope to expand the application of this approach to the "hard copy" stuff that is now knee deep in my various hideouts.... With summer approaching, and with no "preoccupying" deadlines in sight, I might actually make some headway....

That is, once my basement dries out and I get rid of those pesky bugs on my windshield....


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