I used to be so good about handling my email. I’d get back to people quickly, respond with the necessary information and move on my way. But now, I’m just not doing so well with the massive influx of messages, and it’s killing my productivity. Let me explain how it works.
I have lots of clients, and therefore, lots of specialized email addresses. There are eleven active email addresses on my devices, which means that I have a lot of mail to sort through. Just last night I whittled my inbox down to 21 messages. I was happy with that, so I went to bed satisfied. I wake up and there are 21 new messages. No biggie, just click and delete a lot of them, but still, at least 10 to address. Then I had to do some basic morning stuff, plus we had to take KJ to a new school for an open house. When everything was sorted out a few hours later, I had 41 new messages, and at least 20 had to be addressed. By the time lunch hit, there were 75 messages in my inbox, all that needed my attention in one way or another.
I’ve done a lot of things to try to sort out the issue. I use rules in Apple Mail to filter and sort my email for me, that way I can cut down the lists in short order. Most of the time, my inbox displays all of the email in my inbox, but I sometimes filter it down to each individual account. This gives me less to sort through, and it’s easier to just tick them off the list this way. Still, it’s rough.
And then there’s this one client. They send me emails constantly throughout the day, in just a barrage of seemingly random facts and information. Nothing is clear, often I’m just trying to figure out what to do with no real understanding of what the problem really is. As a result, I don’t often communicate well with them, and that’s a problem.
My system needs a shift, and I’m not sure what it is. Some suggest checking your email just once a day, that way you can handle it all at once and get it done. But for me, that would result in hundreds of emails to take care of, which could easily lead to hours of additional work. I find it’s easier to knock stuff out in small batches, but even that isn’t really my forte. I’m not quite sure what the answer is.
What I may do is get a little bit more brutal in my filtering. Or I could just dedicate sections of my day to the task. Honestly, I just need to figure something out.
Today is super busy, as will be this week. I go to print on multiple magazines, and stuff is on the line. Needless to say, this isn’t going to be a long post.
But recently I realized that although I talk about a lot of things here, there are lots of other things that I don’t talk about, mostly because they’re extremely personal. So where do I get that out? What’s my outlet? Up until the other day, I didn’t have one.
I’ve edited and read lots about Day One, a journaling app for the iOS and OSX platforms. I decided to give it a shot, and ever since I’ve been jotting down quick notes every now and then — whenever the urge strikes me. It doesn’t have to be a long post every time, and there’s not pressure, I just have to write what I want. I gotta say, it’s been liberating.
Who knows how long I’ll keep it up, but so far it’s been fun.
Back to work.
I’ve written quite often about my office and how I’m constantly in a struggle to get things just right. On Friday, the itch hit me again. Something wasn’t working and I had to figure it out. By Sunday afternoon my room had been torn apart and reassembled, and it wasn’t an easy process. But what led me down this path in the first place? Well, that’s kind of interesting.
Jason’s funeral was on Saturday, and even though there were mountains of work staring me in the face, I came back feeling dejected and horrible. Although Jason wasn’t my best friend or anything, it put me into a funk. I stood there in this mammoth room with hundreds of people — by far the most people I’ve seen at a funeral ever — and thought about what he meant to me and about my friendships in general. There were dozens of people there that fell into my “buddy” category — guys I know but don’t really know, and they don’t really know me. People who at one point may have been close to me, but now just aren’t. It made me remember how much of a dick I’ve been in the past and how I still feel like I have to atone for my actions from the past.
Needless to say, after I got home I wasn’t exactly in the mood to crank out a few stories, so I putzed around for a bit. First a little bit of Super Mario Bros., then catching up on The Ultimate Fighter on TV. And when I did get back into the office, I just kept looking at the room and thinking about how horrible it functioned. Every day I stared at this grey wall with the blinds pulled tight because of the reflection on my screen. The lack of sunlight in here had a profound affect on my mood, and since my monitor has been off getting fixed, my blinds have been wide open. The result is a more productive, more positive me. Between that and everything else, I knew it was time to redo my office.
The result is a combination of functionality and compromise, but I’m feeling pretty good about it. Essentially, here’s how it goes. The window is now to my left, allowing all the light to come in with no problems. I still have my couch, and I still face the door so that no one can sneak up behind me. It’s not perfect — the walkway between a set of cabinets and the front edge of my desk isn’t very big — but all this does mean that I can have a TV in here, and that will be the icing on the proverbial cake.
All that said, I’ve only had it functional for a few hours, so who knows if I’ll take it all apart again tomorrow.
Between this and my wife’s new work situation, I’ve been wondering whether or not I should start looking at a rental space. Some kind of official office that I commute to every day and hand a sign on the door and shit. Problem is, that screws up a few of my goals for the future. When K4 is born, I want to be there for those formative moments in her life. We also want to get her into daycare/preschool around 18 months or so for the social interactions. That means that really I’ve got about two years before I should realistically start looking at offices, if it even happens.
The other option is to just look for a bigger house. We’re in a good situation right now, but depending on how the market and my career goes, looking at a larger place may be a good option. Wherever it happens to be will have to be larger obviously, but since we’re capping the kiddo train off, we’ll know exactly what we need. Plus, wherever we move is where I want to plant for the next 20 years, so it’s a big decision.
For now, I’ll be content with my office the way it sits. I’ll redo some things in the future I’m sure, and I know that once things get polished off with the space as it sits, I should be pretty happy. Well, that’s the theory. Guess we’ll find out when it happens.
I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. I’ve heard many writers refer to the term, and when they do my instinct is to consider them a rookie in the field. Why? Because there’s always something that you can write about, it’s just a matter of whether or not you can write about the topic you need to at that moment. My advice is often to just write about something else — anything — and that will push you forward.
That’s my technique and it works for me, but yesterday I found myself with an article to write and no idea how I was going to start. I was stumped for the first time in a long time. I could’ve panicked and gone off to eat a bag of Oreos, but instead I decided that I should relocate from my usual perch at my desk, and move around the house.
I started with my laptop in my lap on my couch, then relocated to another, but I was either too hot or just not comfortable, so I decided to relocate one last time to try something new. I put my laptop on the kitchen bar and gave that a shot.
Suddenly, things changed. I don’t know if it was because my blood was flowing better, or maybe it was motivation to work instead of fuck off on my computer, but I started writing. And the result was pretty sweet for a first draft, which is pretty cool in my book. Once my feet gave out, I transferred to the couch, where I’m writing this now. I may even change again in a minute … yup, just went back to standing.
I’ve spoken about standing desks before, but there’s just so much evidence that shows that it can help you lose weight, and combined with my back/neck/leg issues, I’ve just got to make that transition. Finding out now that it makes me function a little bit smoother and become more creative just means that I can do more in less time — that in itself would help me out a ton. The only real issue is the price.
The best option I’ve found so far is the GeekDesk Max. This is an expensive fucking desk, but it has two things which are really important to me.
First, it’s electronic and has adjustable presets. I know I’m not going to be able to stand all day to start, and there will always be times when sitting is preferential. But other, more expensive, standing desks have no presets. That would drive my OCD nuts, as I’d always wonder if I was too high or too low, resulting in me constantly tweaking the height until I burn out the motor.
Second, it’s the right size. There’s a 63-inch version that’s almost the exact dimensions as my current desk, so transitioning would be as easy as it gets. It means that I know everything will fit, and that I don’t have to change around everything just to make it happen. It’s perfect in that regard.
Well, except for the price tag. It is cheap compared to the competition, but it’s still enough to have to save up for, which makes it more difficult to get. But my hope is that a few things come through and I can have this thing in my office sometime soon, because the sooner things happen, the better off I’ll be.
Recent events have scared the shit out of me, motivating me to change my lifestyle and my body. I know that I’ve got to work around 36 years of habits, but if I put in some time and dedication, I think I can turn myself around. After all, I’ve got another kid on the way, and they’ll be a toddler when I hit 40. If I can fix myself before then, I think I’ll set a better example for the kids, and that’s important.
Recently, I’ve been having this nagging pain in my hips and thighs. From what I’ve read it seems like it’s sciatica, but I’m no doctor, and ultimately I know the root of the problem — I’m fat. With Jason and Courtney still so fresh in my mind, I know now more than ever that taking care of myself has to become a priority. This sciatica is just the start; the rest of the problems will come, and soon. ↩
Originally written on August 31, 2012.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted
and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make
them feel driven to do something (compulsions).
Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this
only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.
I’m stuck in a loop, and I have nowhere to go but around in circles.
About two hours ago, I received some news that was pretty life altering, and not in a positive way. My wife has also received some rather fascinating news of a different nature, and the two of us are both put in compromising positions. We both have rather large decisions to make, and we have no idea what to do about them.
When something like this happens to me, I end up in what I call a Loop. My chest tightens up, my heart starts beating a million times a minute, and I can’t think straight. All I can do is think about what the problem is at hand, again, and again, and again. Hence, the Loop.
I don’t know if technically this has to do with OCD, because I’ve never been clinically diagnosed with the condition. Really, I say I have it because my mother says the same about herself, and her and I tend to follow the same general patterns. We’re both very organized, we both like doing spreadsheets and we prefer things to be a certain way. She loves lists. I do too, I just do them in a different way. It’s all in the family.
This manifests itself in different ways for different people. Sometimes, it’s a little weird, and it can affect anyone. But I don’t exhibit those types of symptoms. I’m not paranoid about germs, nor do I spend 10 minutes trying to straighten out the fringe on the carpet. For me, my obsession deals with organization, as well as a few physical symptoms. Take this, for example.
I took that picture of my left hand a few weeks back. You’ll probably notice that my nails appear to be pretty short, but that’s not the problem. Immediately after taking that picture, I cut my nails.
That is the one physical OCD-related issue that I have. I probably cut my nails daily, but it might be every other day, I don’t really keep track. What happens is that my hands will start to feel uncomfortable, so I start pushing the nails against my skin with my fingers. This constant flicking and pushing makes me feel better, but then I start running my teeth in the seam between my nail and my finger. It starts to manifest itself as pain, and next thing I know, I’m sitting and thinking about nothing but cutting my nails.
As a result of this, I have three nail clippers: one in the bedroom, one in my office and a pair in my truck. I’m always prepared for a situation where I have to trim my nails, because if I’m not, then I’ll obsess about it so much that nothing gets accomplished. I remember it happened once while I was at 944, and I made the excuse that I needed something in my truck so I could go out and give them a quick trim. It’s just that bad.
I have no other real physical issues with OCD, the rest just sits up there in my head. It’s debilitating, and it causes me to shut down almost completely. As my heart races, I think about how the problem needs to be fixed, and what I need to do to take care of it. But even once I’ve found a solution, I run that back through my head 10–15 times just to make sure I didn’t make a mistake.
Another example: the other day, I realized that I had an organizational issue that needed tending to. The answer was a spreadsheet, but it needed to be particularly complex — so much so that I spent a good 12 hours making sure everything was correct. If one column used title case, they all did. Each chart was in the same font, and the design was identical so that if I needed to switch between tabs, everything was still aligned the same way. Was it obsessive behavior? A little bit, sure. But again, it has to be right.
These are the things that happen to me all the time, and today’s conundrum really put me into a tizzy. For hours I was unproductive, unable to focus on anything other than the issue, and even though deadlines dictated that I do things immediately, I just shut down. Nothing got done.
It sets my nerves on fire as well. I get snippy with everyone I come in contact with. I’m not fun to deal with. I’m kind of a dick, and it’s because those people — as well intentioned as they may be — are interfering with what’s going on in my head. No, it doesn’t make sense. But it’s what happens.
By the time 7:30pm came, things were marginally better, but I was still looping. Nothing was going to make this problem go away it seemed, no matter how hard I tried. Since I had a long weekend ahead of me, I also knew that no resolution would come for either myself or my wife until Tuesday at the earliest, which meant that my weekend was ruined.
But instead of letting this thing take me over, I decided this time to change it up. This time I spent the rest of my night playing cars with my son and letting his youth and happiness overtake me. He doesn’t have a care in the world, and for a little bit tonight, neither did I.