I have a been a good consumer this past week. I finally ordered a new bed frame (to replace the current frame, which is resting on boxes after having at last broken in a fatal way) and I ordered a new laptop (an iBook), the longstanding missing part of my freelance-productivity equation. I hope the economy takes notice. I tried to buy shoes and a big pile of books, too, but I was stymied by supply issues. Let the record show, however, that I made a good-faith effort.
I find it hard to work at home in the company of the world's cutest juvenile. Kittens are energetic, and they damage productivity in two ways. Well, in many ways, but two in particular have been plaguing me. 1) They are just so cute, you can't possibly concentrate. 2) When they require attention, they ambush you, jump on you, and bite you all over the place, especially your ankles.
I am a writer, and my hands are my livelihood. That means that I should take a break every hour or so anyway, so from a typing-at-the-keyboard standpoint, having a kitten that "reminds me to take a wrist break" is not a terrible thing. I wave the kitty fishing pole around until he starts trying to bat at it from a lying position rather than chasing it, and we're good. (This takes a shorter time than you might think, because I have developed an aggressive anaerobic training program for my cat. Of course, it probably takes a smidge longer every time, and at some point in the not-too-distant future, I will have an amazing, powerful supercat that will run me completely ragged.)
There are times that I don't need a wrist break, and the kitten still insists on reminding me to take one. When I am reading, for example, or when I'm editing. If I want to concentrate on those tasks, I have to leave the apartment. I pack up readings and pens and notepapers, and I head out to one of a few places on my rotation. I sit quietly, try to remember to say "thank you" when a server brings me something or takes something away, and I generally do a good job of concentrating on my work.
It's not just the kitten. I've always been more likely to be distracted by the familiar surroundings of my apartment than by the outside world. I do well resisting novelty, but more than that, being away from home limits the ways I can procrastinate. Take this morning, for example. I wanted to deliver some work by 1 PM. I did the dishes, neatened the bathroom, did some vacuuming, tired the kitten out a little, cleaned the top of the stove, picked up the mail, and made some phone calls. Let me repeat, I cleaned the top of the stove. I'd have done more, but I was supposed to work over the weekend, too, so there wasn't much left. Had I had a laptop, I could have gone to a cafe, where the only thing I'd have had to do would be stare at my screen and write. Maybe drink some tea.
I ordered the laptop on Thursday, it shipped on Friday, and it arrived late this morning. I've already looked it over and tested the modem, and I can start using it for work right away, although my file-sharing system will be rudimentary for the time being. My kitten has been enjoying the cardboard box it arrived in, which has a perfect kitten-sized hole in it (to allow the item labeling on the packaging to show). An engineer from Apple came to my apartment within hours of the delivery, inquired after my "out-of-box experience," and showed me how to make some changes to my desktop.**
The iBook won't get its maiden voyage until tomorrow -- today's deliverable will be completed on the current work machine. I have yet to figure out exactly what software I want enough to buy again, to set up the networking, and to figure out where my email will reside. I won't be traveling for a couple of months, so the timing should work out as well in the medium term as it has in the short term. I have a few days to spare before Labor Day Weekend. I think the Three-Day Novel Contest will be an excellent shakedown cruise for this putative maximizer of productivity.
** This service may not be available in all markets, or indeed in any market other than this one.
August 26, 2002