The Unproductive Web

The more I use the web the less productive I become.

I don’t mean this in a “slacking off work, reading Slashdot and Dilbert” kind of way, but something a little more complex. I was thinking about this on my walk home from work this evening trying to nail down exactly what is bothering me. These 15 minute walks (yes, I’m lucky enough to work that close to home) are where I typically get to think through thorny problems (Rio turned up, Rest of world turned down). Usually, but not always, ones of a technical nature.
I’ve concluded that there are several contributing factors:
The Weight of Ideas — there are so many interesting things happening, some many interesting discussions taking place that its hard not to spend time aimlessly searching and browsing. I’ve always been of an academic bent, so I’m naturally drawn towards picking up new bits of information, figuring out how things work, problem solving, etc, etc. I used to spend hours wandering though the library at university, digging through old journals this is just the more in yer face digital equivalent.
It’s kind of hard to ignore everything that’s going on around you, and focus on any given task or idea. Even then there are so many different viewpoints to a discussion, or ways of solving a problem that simply researching and contributing saps away time.
In short I tend to find myself reading one more site, one more posting, one more technical specification before I get started that I use up my enthusiasm before I do anything.
This is worsened by Final Mile Syndrome, something I’ve suffered from for a long time. FMS is a bipolar complaint. At the one extreme I never start anything until just before it has to be completed: I don’t start running the race until I’ve walked to the Final Mile. At the other end of the spectrum is the rush of enthusiasm following a new idea that drags you headlong towards the finishing line. Until the Final Mile that is. Then the enthusiasm wanes and all forward progress ceases.
The first manifestation of FMS is usually triggered by any deadline that isn’t actually today or tomorrow. The second manifestation of FMS is often triggered by hitting a difficult problem, which I mull over for several days and then my Knee-Jerk Enthusiasm kicks in.
Knee-Jerk Enthusiasm describes my typical reaction to a really cool idea: “This is fantastic! I must plumb its depths and read absolutely everything on this topic immediately…”.
I’m guessing you’re starting to get the picture now right?
The sum of all this leads to Web Angst: that guilty feeling you get when you realise that you’ve not updated your blog/website/open source project. This is often brought on when faced with the sheer volume of creative output typically encountered when scanning even a moderate list of favourite sites.
Hope I don’t sound like I’m whinging. I’d just thought I’d write this down both to get it off my chest (the main reason) and to see whether anyone who happens to wander by has suffered from a similar malaise. Actually the latter would be good because then I can ignore this nagging sensation that’s telling me I’m a “work-shy fop”.
The solution is probably to get off my arse and get some work done. After all I’ve managed to train myself out of making bloody TODO lists (the most depressing time management tool ever invented). So there may be hope for the old dog yet.
Now, what’s on Slashdot at the moment…