I’m dogsitting this week. Because of said dogsitting, I am spending my evenings in an efficiency apartment that has access to neither cable nor internet. I rely heavily on my evenings as productive time, and I was nervous that hiding myself away like this would limit my efficiency. Surely I can’t be productive without access to online databases of articles or to that heap of amassed emails, right?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Yes, it is an inconvenience to not have a world wide web of information at my fingertips. It’s not the inconvenience that I expected, though. I’ve begun a simple Word document in which I list the tasks that I need to do once I have access to the internet (articles and lectures to download, documents to share with others, etc). Emails can be written to be sent at a later date/time. Otherwise, I am limited to the documents and books that I have in front of me.
Instead of an impediment, I’ve found it to provide a sense of relief. I can finally focus my attention on one task at a time. No more becoming caught in a long chain of interesting articles who cite one another. No more abandoning the task at hand to conquer a list of requests from labmates or students. No more becoming distracted by the latest updates on The Chronicle of Higher Ed, by my RSS feeds of job listings, or by all of those adorable baby pictures that my friends post to Facebook. No, I can put my full attention into whatever I feel to be the most urgent and productive use of my time.
Those of you who knew me during my Prelim process might know that I stumbled upon a similar discovery the day that I was stuck in the small, disconnected, waiting room of a local mechanic and ended up writing a large section of my document from that dirty, uncomfortable couch.
This is certainly not a novel or even uncommon discovery. Several authors have already tackled this subject (see here, here, or here for just a few of many entries written on the subject of disconnecting)
Still, many authors tend to fall on the side of completely disconnecting during designated times. Perhaps I’m showing immaturity in my working style, or perhaps I am a product of a younger, more deeply technologically addicted generation, but I prefer this half-connected lifestyle that I have begun to embrace. I prefer to welcome the laptop into my evenings and weekends, but limit my access to the distractions (good and bad) that the internet provides.
I see a number of exciting opportunities here. I imagine many a half-connected weekend working, internet free, on dissertation-writing from the porch of a local vineyard.
How about you? Where do you weigh in on the issue? With what level of connectedness are you most comfortable?