How to waste a week of your life

I think I just wasted a week of my life. The frustrating thing is that there was no point during that week that I either thought it would all add up to a week or doubted that what I was doing was worthwhile. So how do I not waste more?

Our laptop has been suffering the indignities of old age for the past few months. In the case of a computer, these indignities are overheating, constant fan running, a hard-drive replacement, RAM upgrade, inability to play any videos without crashing inexplicably, and then recently inability to do much of anything without crashing inexplicably. As it has aged with such grace, we have been using our new young thing–meaning the new laptop–for more of our needs, but we hadn’t actually switched everything over to the new computer until this past week. Finally, we decided the poor, suffering, elderly laptop deserved to retire to a life of only leisurely computing–meaning, it gets used by whoever wants to do something that we can’t do¬†on an ipad when the other laptop is already being used. Of course, nothing is as easy as it sounds, so moving our files and a few applications we had bought recently enough to want to keep as is rather than upgrade became a week-long ordeal. But it was necessary. The old computer was not stable enough to be our primary machine. It can handle whatever we need it to handle, so long as it isn’t crucial and we don’t mind risking the loss of its data.

So, I spent a few days on the oh-so-fun task of switching files and applications, rebooting during various crashes, and a whole bunch of troubleshooting for just about everything since nothing switched over completely seamlessly. It didn’t help that the new laptop was only new to us, having been my mother’s laptop for about two months before she decided to get a new one for unique reasons pertaining to hard-to-use software compatibility issues that have no bearing on the total awesomeness of our new laptop. Those two months left their mark on our laptop, which though it was still hers and didn’t realize we were its new parents. It wanted her password for a bunch of stuff, as if we weren’t good enough.

Then, once I had spent so much time on switching computers, I was on a roll. I might as well neaten up while I’m at it. We had old, old files from the computer before the computer before the old laptop, some of which were worth keeping and some–like emailed grocery lists and movie discussions that somehow got archived–not. So, since I was there anyway, and since we have this nifty new laptop that’s all clean and untainted by the accumulation of years of electronic soot, I went file by file in documents and on the desktop and deleted what wasn’t worth keeping and organized what was, since there’s no point keeping it if you can’t find it. The problem with this logic is that the files were small, and even as numerous as they were, they didn’t make a dent in the memory of the computer, so storing a 15 year old email as a text file was doing no harm. And with spotlight, we can find anything, whether it’s in a logical place or not. So really, I just wanted to feel like it was neat and clean because it was new, and I spent days of my life making it so.

Then, because I was being so organized, I decided I needed a better way of keeping up with all my various notes and memos-to-self, all my lists of things to do, books to read, foods to cook, and places to go. I needed to streamline the running of the house and family so I’d be more on top of things. So I spent way too long looking for just the right app, and I carefully pondered the important questions of which features this app must have. I tried every free app I could find with the features I was looking for before determining that none of them was good enough, and then I bought an inexpensive but excellent app to organize my life’s notes and lists. And it really is an excellent app. It was well worth the $2 it cost. But once I had the app, I needed to get all the scraps of paper and notes into it. So I transcribed lists that were perfectly neat and organized in a binder (which has the disadvantage relative to the app of always being farther from me than my ipad, which is the reason I needed the app). And now I have them all in the app. Along with a bunch of other notes I made along the way. It took another day or two, but I’m organized!

But, since I was organizing and consolidating everything into one hold-all app, I might as well get around to sorting the 50-ish magazines I have lying around waiting for me to cut out the recipes and articles I want to keep before I recycle the magazine. They’ve been accumulating because my method of storing recipes and articles after clipping them didn’t work well, because I couldn’t search for anything and find it except by flipping page-by-page through yet another binder, which is no less trouble than flipping through the magazine. They didn’t lend themselves to being put into my app. It can manage web clippings, so if I found the articles or recipes on the magazine’s websites, I could theoretically clip them into the app, but it was cumbersome and memory heavy to do so. Then it struck me–Pinterest! The answer to my magazine problem. So I spend another day and a half going through all these magazines and finding every recipe or article I had marked as a keeper online and then pinning it. Now I have sorted all the magazines and don’t have two large stacks of them in two different magazine racks, and they’re all neatly organized and findable in their proper boards on Pinterest. Woo-hoo.

Except…I’ve spent a week moving files and troubleshooting (which, as I said, was necessary), neatening various electronic devices, testing and researching apps, entering lists, sorting magazines, organizing recipes. I haven’t spent the week playing with my kids nearly as much as I want. I haven’t been reading my current nightstand novel nearly as much. I hope everything will be smoother for all this organizing I’ve done. It definitely COULD be, if I can only keep up with it. But if I’m honest, the real limiting factor that kept me from making all these foods and doing all these activities was never that I couldn’t find the recipe or the instructions. It was always that I didn’t have time or energy or motivation to do it, and once I did have time, energy, and motivation, I did it. So I may have just spent a week on nothing but neatening–electronic, physical, and mental–with no other discernible benefit.

There really is organized enough and too organized. There’s being productive and wasting time. Sometimes it’s easy to see the difference–of course making dinner is productive and watching cat videos on youtube is wasting time!–but sometimes not so much. I’m not at all sure all these electronic devices that can streamline our lives don’t waste as much of our time as they save, even when it’s “getting organized” and troubleshooting on necessary tasks, and especially when you consider all the cat videos on youtube. Or maybe I just have a talent for wasting time. Do you?


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