The rabbit hole attention span

One of the best ways I can save us tons of money is to finish my program as quickly as possible and get a real grown up job. When I do I can stop the borrowing and start the earning and paying off. This is at least 2 1/2 years off, if I finish in 5 years total. However, finishing in one’s sixth year or later is pretty common. I would like to try to guard against the extra year, due to the above mentioned financial issues.

In the next 7 months, I need to:

Learn 2 bodies of literacy to mastery and take 2 examinations to prove my knowledge
Finish coursework in two classes
Defend my thesis
Write a dissertation proposal
Design and test a survey
Work on articles from my thesis and thesis data
Help keep out finances in order
Prepare and present my work at a conference in March
Find a place to live
Do my research assistant/teaching assistant gig
Help boys with homework and general living issues
Student edit a journal article every couple weeks
Prepare food
Possibly participate in a second research assistantship
Clean some bits of the house
Attend to dogs

Kind of a lot. What stands between me and my success?

Tonight the Dude was playing Scrabble with the boys and I was going to hang out on the couch and read for class. Instead I got sucked into the never ending vortex of the Internet. Ironically enough, I wasted the evening reading productivity blogs. And doing some Facebook chatter. But mostly productivity sites. Random internet use is the number 1 time suck in my life. It is one of the main reasons I refuse to get a smartphone. I am online nearly constantly when I am home. I don’t need to carry this pattern out into the world. I also want to contain it in the house.

Biggest problem, hands down. I am a news junkie. I can read news and blogs all day. And each one sends me off to a new link, or I read the comments for that nugget of wisdom. I don’t usually comment on them, and I hardly ever game. But news and blogs and other social media takes hours away from my life.

I will be good and on the right track for a day or two. I use RescueTime to track my usage. I use Facebook Nanny and Stay Focused to keep me off of certain websites. When I use these tools properly, they help a lot. But all the tools in the world will be useless if they sit in the shed. I am trying to become better. I have set goals on Rescue Time: at least 4 hours of very productive time and no more than 2 hours of very distracting time every day. I am making myself log in to Rescue Time often during the day. And for the most part, this is helping a lot. Until I run into a day like today, when I simply do not want to work anymore.

I read this great article the other day. I really do feel like my brain has changed and my ability to focus on something, especially if it is boring or difficult, has shrunk in recent years. I think that there are a few things that make the internet a perfect storm for me. I am a news junkie . I can never get enough news and analysis. And there is always more on the Internet. I am a lazy extrovert. I like interacting with people, but I often have trouble taking that step that involves leaving the house. In this way, the internet is perfect. To bastardize Genie: Unlimited information, vast living space. And of course, give my obsessive need to overthink and over research, I am spending vast amounts of time trying to find the perfect time management product, and distraction information.

However, the main problem, and the one I am grappling with most, is the set up of academia. It never turns off. There is no place in the day where the job ends and the leisure time begins. I never clock out. Because of this, I never feel done because I never am done. Let’s say I have all the work for my RAship and TAship done, and I am all caught up on my reading for class for the week. Well, now I should be prepping for exams, or working on my survey, or reading for my proposal. See? Never done. I have been in higher education with children in tow for 7 1/2 years now, and I am starting to feel a bit burnt out. Also, there is very little accountability, so I can slack off quite a bit if I want to. And it’s not like it matters when I take the time off, because I don’t have any kind of set schedule. This lack of accountability coupled with the notion that I am never going to be finished with work, has had some pretty  bad results on my productivity lately. I am looking for that magic bullet to fix this, but I don’t think it exists. Good old fashioned will power is what I need. But where can I find it?

I could try monetizing it. Making myself pay a dollar every time I wandered into the depths of the Internet. Because time is money and the more time I waste, the longer I will be a poor grad student. But everyone needs some breaks. And the internet surfing can happen so fast, it is hard to even notice I am falling down a rabbit hole sometimes.

I think though, in another baby step, I am going to leave my computer at my work office. I am pretty productive when I work from there. I am far less likely to mindlessly surf. I have my iPad at home, so I can still read some news and take notes. But I do a lot less on the iPad and it will serve as a good reminder. I am thinking of it as an early Lenten sacrifice. Although I am not a churchgoer, I am a fan of Lent. I will let you all know how it goes.