Saturday, April 05, 2008

Open Doors

As I return from a three minute drive to Panera, that I could really walk, for some coffee and a Cinnamon Bagel, which I didn't really need, I caught myself thinking about the book by an Isreali professor named Dan Ariely called Predictably Irrational. I didn't read the book inside of Panera not until I got in my car. Inside of Panera, I read through half of Business Week that arrived in the mail today, a day later than it is supposed to because the mail in Rutherford sucks.

Then I returned to my car, reclined my seat, turned on the radio and opened the book, probably there instead of Panera because of the crying baby that sat a few tables form me at Panera that was ruining my necessary reading solitude, besides the fact that I left my Ipod at home and made a concerted effort to do so so I wouldn't use headphones because of my painful ear state from wearing headphones at work all day to drown out the loud sounds from my boss and from the two loud concerts I attended in Brooklyn the last two nights. So back to Mr. Ariely and his book, Predictably Irrational, which I discovered while reading a small box in Time magazine while on the toilet at work.

Chapter nine of the book is called "Keeping Doors Open" and talks about how people are wired to keep all their options open which in turn often confuse them to no end. After reading the chapter, it got me thinking. Since I started thinking I stopped reading the book, I started thinking of what I would do next in place of reading the book so I could continue thinking. I have two large NCAA bracket pools that I am in the running to win some decent money so I decided to head home and keep tabs on the game but like the average 25 year old, I can't just sit in front of the TV watching sports and do nothing else so I'd probably whip out my laptop which I am doing right now.

But I can't do just that. So I pulled out a notepad to try and list out the doors that I currently had open. Ariely talks about the need for people to close some of those open doors to give clarity to the decisions they are making. He did a wide arrange of experiments on his students at MIT and even these highly intelligent people were incapable of really closing some doors no matter what the positive incentive that was in front of them for doing so. So I quickly jotted down just the immediate tasks that came to my mind. Now it is even easier because the UCLA - Memphis game has gone to half time so I have muted the screen to stop some distractions. Although, the TV is still flashing behind my laptop screen. Here's the list.

  1. Write a blog entry (since I haven't in like a month)
  2. Play guitar (I haven't done this for like 3 months)
  3. Play Metroid on Wii (ignored after a week of intense playing and non-completion)
  4. Play Zak & Wiki on Wii (same as Metroid)
  5. Watch the Final Four (which I have chosen to do somewhat but not undivided)
  6. Updating the Moleskine calendar book (which I rarely check for upcoming
    tasks but have been pretty good about at least updating and keeping tab
    on my activities in order to prove that I do actually do something with
    my time even if it is not productive in the slightest)
  7. Check my Fantasy baseball team ( a relatively new time wasting obsession since the league is cumulative for the year and checking minute by minute only offers minute instant gratification of my baseball expertise)
    1. Watch the Mets game to check on some of my fantasy players (which I try to do right now, but can't find the channel because it could be on one of 800 on DirectTV)
  8. Watch a movie (which I obsessively burn at work and don't watch half of them, another topic for another day)
  9. Write down a few comedic bits I thought of this afternoon during lunch with my sisters, girlfriend and Allan, Jess' boyfriend (something I had no previous inclination to do until I saw the awful comic at the concert last night be kicked out for attacking a member of the crowd)
  10. Finish the book which is fueling all this thought, Predictably Irrational.
  11. Eat Dinner (eating the bagel just made me hungry)
  12. Finish Business Week (which I got half way through before the crying baby)
  13. Do some sit ups and push ups (which I usually think of as a good task to do while watching TV and never actually do since I play with he laptop instead)
  14. Finish my latest script (75 pages in at a good clip but never focus long enough to get to the finish line)
  15. Editing footage of the impromptu short film that I came up with and shot, keeping my house mate up until the wee hours of the morning to shoot the finale.
  16. Updating my goodreads profile with the books I got from the library (six books that I can't possibly read in the time span that the library has given even though I also bought four books recently that I have not read)
  17. Messaging a few born again friends on Facebook
  18. Have another cigarette
Off the top of my head there are eighteen. Predictably, my mind will instantly lean towards the tasks that are the most simple and the least time or thought consuming: Updating the goodreads profile, checking the facebook, and watching TV. Some require their own focus and are therefore mutally exclusive. Those will be pushed to the back of the line of tasks like the script, the guitar, the film editing, and the video games. Some will happen in due time, the sports watching and the cigarette. So, by compartmentalizing the doors like this, I know which ones I will do.

I also know which ones I won't do but should. I also know how I should try and focus my mind to accomplish some of the more intensive tasks (like writing out a decent and hopefully interesting blog entry for once which I AM DOING RIGHT NOW! WOO HOO!) And of course in the middle of my rhythm of writing this blog, an ant walked onto my hand freaking the fuck out of me and making me lose my train off thought so where am I?

Of course, the backpack theory. Sitting next to me is my newish messenger bag, a delayed Hanukkah gift that I got closer to my birthday. My old bag was starting to die so I got a new one. This bag is probably three times the size of the old one, allowing me to carry more shit than before and basically allowing for all conflicting tasks to be seen at all times when I open my bag. My bag is a microcosm of my mind and the list above. I used to fill the old smaller bag and now with the bigger bag I am still filling it, weighing it down so I don't even want to carry it. Forget about when I decided to put my laptop in the new bag. In my old bag, just the laptop would fit and pretty much nothing else.

The bag currently has at least 5 different notebooks (varying size, paper styles, and colors), 5-10 pens at any given time, headphones, IPOD, the Weekend Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Business Week, The Believer - The Film Issue (the best magazine currently in print), a printed out copy of a a friend from poker's father's life story (he says its just like the Johnny Depp movie Blow), a DVD of the movie Le Moustache, my daily planner, my checkbook, and the last two weeks of New York magazine (with 80% completed crosswords puzzles).

So what does it all mean, I think. Then my mind wanders on to how many of these task I can do simultaneously, not considering the detrimental effect that doing too many of them will have on each one's productivity, as I change the channel to the Mets game from the Final Four halftime show. Will I go for the instant gratification? Will I hunker down and work on one? Will I turn off the fucking TV? That's a no. Will I accomplish anything before I host some friends in like two or three hours? Will I blow my mental wad on this one blog entry and not write for another two months?

All of these ways to validate my mind yet I can't complete any of them. I will complete the small tasks. I will finish this blog entry if it kills me. I will smoke a cigarette which will kill me. But I'm also going to close a few doors. I'm not going to pick up the guitar since I'd be wasting my time since I really can't even play the fucking thing, and by the time I get back in sync, it would be time to stop. I'm not going to play the Wii, for now. I'm going to set modest task goals today and hope I stick to them till all the doors reopen later and tomorrow (right after I play softball in the morning).

But by noting all of these things, I hope to make a conscious effort to finish things; to accomplish the tasks that piss me off for starting and never finishing. We all know we are scatter shot from time to time so think about focusing, think about closing some doors for the benefit of the other "rooms." Maybe just close them till you finish cleaning up the main room, and don't just close the doors that aren't important to you, that's the easy part. The hard part is staying on target with the doors that you are opening.

So I am closing like twelve doors for now, with the hope that I can do it again tomorrow and the next day. Not just for myself, but for devotion that these tasks deserve. Finish this entry, watch some basketball, and finish the book. That is what I will do. And if I complete all of those then I will open another door. Maybe even write a more humorous, informative entry that I actually meant to do today.

Fuck, UCLA is down 9! (And by the time I read this over, they fucking lost and my brackets are done.)

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