Since I retired from many years of client research work, and from the genealogy lecture circuit, I anticipated long, lovely days of freedom from deadlines. Freedom to compile my own family histories, and to pursue some of those unsolved client problems that still itch—problems that might contribute to the literature on case studies. Never mind some aspiration to fiction writing!
Now I am wondering where my time management went, if I ever had it. To be up front about my dependency, I am wed to my computer—this box that sits under my desk, the monitor that shows me everything, and the keyboard in front of me. "Wed" may be the wrong word. It’s more like a life-support medical apparatus without which I am lost. It’s also called freaking-out desperation by this techno-dummy if the computer crashes or the email program goes wonky.
Staying in touch with the (overwhelming) news of the genealogy world is absolutely necessary, given my stated aspirations. One must keep up with the activities of local groups and subscribe to email lists, as well as tend to the ever-growing list of favourite bookmarks. One must continue to learn the latest offerings and changes of important research centres. One must know the guidelines for articles submitted to different journals and magazines. So far, so good. In times past, I could have two cups of coffee first thing in the morning and fairly quickly dispense with the daily computer check-in ... with hours to spare for my real work.
What is happening now? Almost everyone I know, and sometimes their dog or cat, has a blog. I’m not guilt-free myself. And of course I need to know what my colleagues and friends have opinions about. So how did it get to be the afternoon and I am still mesmerized, actually petrified (original meaning intended) in a sitting position that cries for immediate exercise. Where is my lunch? Why is the fridge empty? The electronic revolution seems to have a downside.
My brain is so stuffed with interesting information I’m in danger of not enough mental filing cabinets. Should I throw out useless and amusing bits of trivia to make space for today’s allotment? Is that what they mean by garbage in, garbage out? Housecleaning is part of good time management, n’est-ce pas? In theory this would work if one had perfect control of the inflow and outflow—probably a matter of practice and discipline. In my case, the outflow can include the inadvertent oblivion of such essentials as how to make the DVD player work, pin numbers, user names, passwords, my children’s birthdays, and how my mother made hard-boiled eggs. Why would the pot want to boil itself dry?
I remember an archivist speaking once in admiration of a remarkable genealogist who used to work in their collections: "She has probably forgotten more than we [archivists] will ever know." Simpler times, not so long ago, pre-Internet. He had no idea then how prescient he was. The information age may be wonderful, but aging itself resembles the goal of simplifying (some call it downsizing) physical space and possessions. I’m working on the management part. Useful or amusing suggestions are entirely welcome.