Purge

I don't have enough time. More specifically, I've decided I don't have enough time. Everyday I get up at at 6:00AM with high hopes for the day: optimistic views on what I'll accomplish; which tickets I'll finally polish off; how much closer to the next milestone my team will be. Yet everyday, by the time I'm too exhausted to think about anything worthwhile, I'm disappointed. The issues I wanted to fix: still open; the random tasks requested of me throughout the day: still unchecked to-do items. It's been this way for a while and I've had enough.

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying: I love my job and I love the people I work with. Like any programmer these days, recruiters contact me semi-frequently, yet they never receive anything more than "Thanks, but I'm content," from me. Besides, I love being busy. Like most other ADD inflicted introverts, there are few things I fear more than not being busy. Being busy with meaningful tasks gives someone's life purpose, direction, and satisfaction. So what's the issue?

The issue is that my backlog continues to grow and is quickly exceeding my capacity. I can keep up at work—but that's far from all I need to do in a day. Regularly, I'll decide I need to read a new book or I'll come up with a programming idea I'd like to try. Someone recently gave me a guitar, so now I need to learn how to play it. I have sticky notes everywhere reminding me to take more time to write, to go cycling for a few hours, to meditate, to learn to speak Mandarin. All of these are important tasks with specific (although not always obvious) reasons for their existence; all of them sitting in my backlog waiting to get done. At my current burn-rate that day will never come.

Something needs to change. But what? I can't work less—In all reality I should work more. I can't eliminate any of the projects above. But I can eliminate kipple. How much time do I spend on email every day? What about Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? RSS Feeds? Honestly, I don't know. I have absolutely no empirical data that says I'm wasting my time and cognitive energy reading Twitter, but I know it's taking a non-trivial chunk of time. Time that could be better spent finally reading the untouched books sitting on my shelf, becoming more physically fit, meditating and regaining perspective, or spending time with the people I care about.

I've decided to take action. I'm not getting rid of Twitter or Facebook or Reeder, but I'm cutting them off at the knees. I just cut my Twitter following count by 60%. I cut Facebook down to 30 friends that I really, actually know. In Reeder I now subscribe to 36 RSS feeds, down from a peak of over 150 a few years ago.

I'm keeping all of these services around because they do have value: they help me be aware of important news and keep in touch with good friends. I've simply trimmed the fat and raised the bar on the quality of the content I'm going to consume. Too much of the content I was spending time on was completely inconsequential and frighteningly shallow. Instead of content being a way to convey important information, it was a way to spend time and to distract myself from thinking about difficult problems. That's something I can no longer afford to do.

In short: time is the most valuable and exceedingly scarce resource in the Universe, so I've decided to treat it as such.

Purge
Share this