Age Quod Agis
Sunday, February 26, 2012
[Note: This is another post that I wrote last year sometime and then never quite finished. It feels a little weird when I do that because some of the details don’t actually match my current life — for instance I’m pretty much done with work stuff at this point, and actually doing a much better job of staying focused and getting through things — but I decided it was worth putting up anyway. For future reference, if nothing else.]
My office when I worked in DC was in the front of our office suite, near the main door and the conference room and the receptionist’s desk. Once a year (or possibly twice? the details of this are fuzzy), we would have a board meeting that involved many people ringing the bell for the front door to be opened and coming in and out of the suite and into and out of the conference room. This event would also require the little worker bees like myself to pretend we were professional, so we’d have to upgrade our wardrobes for the day. This was definitely a hardship for me; it’s difficult for me to work and look professional at the same time.
The meeting coincided with copywriting season, which was hard enough under the best of circumstances, having to try to do it while I was dressed up with people coming and going all day was a real problem.
I remember one time complaining to my housemate Ted about it, I was talking about what a miserable day it was going to be and how I wasn’t going to be able to get anything done, too many people standing in front of my office and talking and ringing the doorbell and walking around and being in my way.
Ted didn’t think it sounded like a big deal, just normal office stuff. He said, “What, are you autistic?”
I said, “Yes, maybe I am.”
I’m pretty sure I’m not autistic, though for a while I was trying to decide if I have Asperger’s syndrome. There are about three things I’m interested in talking about, none of which are of interest to anyone I know, which is one of the signs of Asperger’s. (From Wikipedia: “People with Asperger syndrome often display behavior, interests, and activities that are restricted and repetitive and are sometimes abnormally intense or focused.” Hmmm….) Though the hallmark of the condition is an inability to read social cues and to connect with other people, which is generally not something I have a problem with. So I eventually decided that I probably don’t have Asperger’s.
But I do have a lot of trouble dealing with sensory inputs, and one of the reasons I’ve structured my life the way I have is to make it easier for me to manage that. And despite the significant level of control I have over my life, I’m having trouble right now trying to get done what I need to get done without feeling like I’m always behind.
One of the things I’ve really struggled with for the last year and a half is how to balance the things I have to do with the things I want to do while still keeping my life moving forward. I feel like I haven’t done a very good job with that.
Some things have gotten done, especially work (which was actually important, I’d been in a holding pattern on some things for a while, so it was good to have some of that turn into actual projects that I actually got paid for) but many things are exactly where they were two years ago … or worse, since a bunch of things have broken but very few things have gotten fixed.
In thinking about this, I realized that when the wheels really started to come off the bus was when I started being online all the time, logging into Skype to stay in touch with the people I was working with, and being available all day, every day to take care of problems and make updates.
It’s hard to set limits when you have a constant barrage of requests. It creates a false sense of urgency, and in dealing with those, you never get to the things that aren’t sending you emails or texts or phone calls. (For instance the bathroom tub surround will remain untiled forever unless I make a plan for fixing it; it’s not going to send me a message asking when I’m going to get to it.)
So I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, and thinking about organization and managing information and setting goals and figuring out how to make things happen.
There’s a Latin phrase that means “do what you’re doing”: age quod agis. After I learned it a few years ago I really tried to stay focused on doing one thing at a time, just concentrating on what I was doing. If I was cooking dinner I was cooking dinner and if I was biking I was biking and if I was cleaning the bathroom I was cleaning the bathroom. And if I was working, I was working. But when I wasn’t working, I wasn’t working.
I seem to have lost that at some point along the way.
So I’ve decided I need to quit trying to multitask and just do what I’m doing. And maybe I’ll manage to get something done.