Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take Time to Recharge

My daughter graduated from Vassar a few weekends ago, and I took the following Monday off to drive her and four years of stuff home. (Ok, I will stop here to brag on my daughter; she graduated with college honors and Phi Beta Kappa. How lucky she is that both her brains and looks came from her mother!) Anyway, I arrived back in Durham exhausted from the eleven hour drive from Poughkeepsie and started thinking of returning to work on Tuesday. So I turned on my computer to start planning.

Logging onto my e-mail account I saw that I had received over 110 e-mails—in a day. It took me a few hours to respond, delete and organize them. My planning time evaporated. And perhaps more discouragingly, not one of the e-mail pieces was even mildly important, no less critical, despite the red exclamation points accompanying ten of them. Once again, e-mail made me its servant; I felt the need to respond to nearly every email. As a result, I am serving information; it is not serving me. I remember when e-mail and the internet were hyped as a way to increase leisure time; instead it has transformed any time into work time. It has become an unquenchable monster. And e-mail is just one example of a sea change.

In the last twenty years the information game has transformed. The game is no longer finding information; it is now sifting through and synthesizing information. Not long ago, research was a hide ‘n seek game of finding the right article in the right journal and being able to obtain it. Those that held the key to finding information had the power. Today, a Google search will provide more information on a topic than a person can use. Now those who can analyze, synthesize and prioritize information hold the power.

So it is with e-mail. It flows and flows in, and I must learn to manage it. More importantly, we must teach our children to manage and make information work for them; not they for it. Being addicted to Facebook is no better than being a crackberry addict. So, what can we do to get in control again?

Well I, for one, am going to take at least one week off the grid. I need the peace and quiet. I need time to ponder and wonder and perhaps by removing myself from the stream of information, I will be able to better analyze how to manage it. At the very least, that week will let me recharge.

And that is my summer wish for all of you—take some time to recharge. Take time to enjoy the old fashioned pleasures--cool lemonade, chatting on a porch, reading a potboiler (not as an e-book), swimming, napping and enjoying a juicy slice of watermelon. The world will continue to function even if you do not add your voice to the cacophony for a week or so. And that time to recharge will allow you to better face the challenges of the world.

And in my quiet reverie, a great idea on how to manage the flow of information may pop in my head unbidden but most appreciated.