The secret to getting work done lies concealed in mastering the internet, and not letting it master you.
The internet is like the nafs, the carnal self, which the Sufis say must be mastered, so that you ride the steed instead of it riding you.
The internet is akin to a thick, fragrant vine that twines around your hours and strangles them to suffocation. Its hundreds of tendrils attach themselves to your mind like those neuro-tubes they use in sci-fi movies.
Each email reproduces like gremlins: the quicker you respond to them, the greater in number they return until you are crushed beneath their weight. This is the case with both friends and work.
And many emails come equipped with distractions: My favorite is the one line message that says : “Check this out” next to a youtube link or a .wav file. What, pray, makes you think I will spare 5 minutes to ‘check this out,’ when I have no idea whether it will show me cat cartoons or men playing beer pong or a sentimental video that asks you to remember the women in your lives?
But with work emails in particular, you are required to respond to emails – true. So how can you keep it manageable? I have a disease: I respond to emails quickly. I spend a great deal of work-time on my laptop and I am online, so I see ‘urgent’ queries about assignments and papers as soon as they hit my inbox. And of course, responding to an email is quicker than reflecting upon the organization of a book manuscript. So I tend to respond right away. Then I realized that when I respond, 2 or 3 emails follow in quick succession. ‘Hey, she’s available. Let’s have at it.’ Each question results in a 3 new ones. So I have devises a strategy to protect myself from my quick-response disease. It’s called ‘Delay Delivery.’
For some time now, I’ve been trying to uncover tools that will simply keep the internet shut on my laptop for a certain period of time. The problem is, when I’m writing, I need articles from EBSCO and JSTOR. Yes, it’s possible to keep writing and to delay writing that passage which needs a database search, but why not look up the newest literature?
“Recent literature.” Sounds benign enough, but it’s deadly. It’s the Blob. It’s coming, and it’s going to get you. You reach out to get it, and it’s got YOU. It’s smog. It’s multiplying as we speak. Heck, it’s multiplying, and you’re making that happen. The tsunami is coming.
So you reach out a tentative finger to “recent literature” and it envelops you. One article? Hey, take 24. By the way, there are “more like this.” There are related articles and some of them are most-cited. Surely you wouldn’t want to miss them?