Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Slackers

Recently, I posted the Slacker's Guide to the Presidency. It turns out that I needn't have bothered. Since his inauguration, Trump and his Congress have kept themselves very busy fouling our drinking water, making sure the insane can get access to guns, keeping us safe from doctors and grad students and babies, in-securing the nation's nuclear stockpile, going to war with China, going to war with Mexico, going to war with Australia (?!?), making education more like Amway, screwing people out of their retirement savings, and "fixing" healthcare. In fact, though I might be inclined to criticize such a thing so early in his term, I'm thrilled the President chose to go on vacation so much already. In fact, I think the more time he spends out of the Oval Office, and away from pens, the better.

Though I'm no longer worried about the President's productivity, I am increasingly concerned about my own. Paying ultra-close attention to the opening month of the presidency, the chaotic transition that previewed it, the endless general election season that gave birth to it, and the infinite gut-wrenching primary season before that has diverted so much of my time and energy that I'm concerned that the muscle memory be permanent. I do realize that the theme of this blog suggests that weak productivity is more a chronic condition than acute, but this is different. The Slacker's Guide is supposed to be about getting more from less, not something from nothing. There is a point at which work, home, farm, and family all start to seriously suffer--especially since it's not like we were talking about a breakneck pace of effort to begin with.

And so, the Slacker's Guide will delve into something I've mostly avoided so far: Self Help.

Before I go on, let me clarify that I mean literal self help. I don't expect anyone but me to get anything out of this, other than a tasty dollop of schadenfreude. It's written in second person because my style guide demands it for these lists, not because I actually want anyone else do any of this.

The Slacker's Guide to Productivity, during the Advent of the Apocalypse:
  1. Do something: Typical self help advice recommends prioritizing work according to deadlines or importance. Okay, but let's adjust that down a tidge. If the task of the greatest importance or nearest looming deadline is walling off attempts at anything, let's break through that. Meeting deadlines is more likely if you start by do something and gently slide over into doing something more pressingly necessary.
  2.  Make a list: Never having found a satisfying replacement for the Palm to-do list has been a handy excuse, but it is possible to put this stuff on paper. I guess. Making a list doesn't guarantee anything actually gets done, but it's possible that having to face a growing collection of things undone right there in black and white might direct some of that low-grade guilt.
  3. Take up arts and crafts: A friend of mine spent lots of his free time the last year sharpening his artistic skills by photoshopping his cats into superheroes--by the way, he has a newly minted doctorate in chemical engineering, so there is a considerable intellect being thus directed, and precious little free time. Meanwhile, I spent the last year reading political blogs. It slowly dawned on me that through his efforts he had both a new skill and a body of work to show for it. Also, no cats are harmed. As such, the cats have neither more nor less contempt for him than they had to start with. I on the other hand have, well, this world we live in. It may time to log some recording studio time, or break out that novel, or... something. Actually, Slacker Guide writing kind of falls into this category, so maybe this is going well already.
  4. Go visiting: This is sometimes a great way to drag someone else's productivity down closer to your own, but occasionally a face-to-face conversation with a smart colleague can accidentally yield a good idea. Very occasionally, that good idea may be related to work, and you've done something productive rather by accident.
  5.  Do mindless tasks: Cleaning a desk or a coffeepot, filing stuff, organizing drawers, and such doesn't take the creative energy that seems to be so lacking right now. Also, stuff like this usually comes with something visible at the end to show for it. As a bonus, nothing helps to kick a real to-do list into being like mindless busy work. I find that by the time I've put the first pen away, I've already remembered six things that require my attention right now.
  6. Plan rewards: Holding out a social media break until after the forms are filled out is pretty standard advice, but do it anyway. Going right for that dopamine rush of checking if there's been an impeachment so far today is not getting things headed in the right direction. You just checked again, didn't you. Ugh.
  7. Don't just eat something: The hole in your psyche is too large for even a whole sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies to fill up. Trust me, I checked. Eating for sustenance, or even pleasure, is a fine thing, but that's not what we're talking about here is it? Some of this plan is about literal survival during the coming clusterstorm, and you're not helping things from a cholesterol, lipids, and blood sugar point of view.
Pithy lists notwithstanding, I'm very worried about the scalability of my problem. It's one thing for a lone Slacker to have a rough couple of weeks (months, years...). It's quite another for the majority of us who voted against this president to suddenly be unable to do anything. I mean, we've gotten pretty good at angry protests, mean tweets, and hilarious memes. We've probably even gotten under Himself's rather thin skin--I, for one, am literally trying to get him to respond to me personally on Twitter in hopes of increasing my followers and readers (it's a long shot, but not impossible given his habits). But to what end? Will we still remember how to do things when it's time to Make America Great Again...Again? What happens when we've burned off all of our anger and are left with nothing more than outrage soot?

I don't know, but I'm going to try. Or at least try to try. I'm going to try to break free from the enormous gravity of my own suffering and attempt to get back at it. Right after I check Twitter and Facebook, read this one article, and finish my cookie.

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