I didn’t post last week because I didn’t think to schedule a post in advance, and I was in the woods. I went backpacking with my Dad in the North Cascades, the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
There’s something really satisfying about getting out of cell phone range. Perhaps it’s that being disconnected from the Internet is such a rarity these days. I love the Internet, I love connection between people and the communities that can be built when the Internet’s not too busy being horrible to itself. But it’s still a hubbub of voices that, once in a while, should be silent.
It’s a lot like the stars, really, except opposite. In the front country, the stars are quiet. From Seattle on a good clear night, you can make out major constellations; everything else is blocked out by light pollution. In back country, in the North Cascades, the major constellations are almost drowned out by the volume of other stars. The full arc of the Milky Way becomes visible. Two of the nights I was out I got up in the middle of the night, to look at the stars. Both nights I saw a satellite moving in its measured way across the sky, a reminder of the connection to the rest of the world. I could look down the knife edge of the galaxy and think about what I was seeing, a giant cross section of the unimaginably enormous place that is in turn an unimaginably small place in the whole of the universe.
Anyway, all that’s to say that I enjoyed not having the Internet for five days. I didn’t miss social media at all. It’s the sort of thing that I use and enjoy, but it becomes a way of mentally treading water. A way to avoid doing anything, and yet still feeling productive.
Productivity is a funny thing. A corporate buzzword, is it a quantitative measure of the amount of work you do, or is it a qualitative matter of how much work you think you’ve done? Because those two don’t always match up, particularly as a freelancer. My tendency is to always feel like I’ve done little, even when I have accomplished much. An offshoot of impostor syndrome, perhaps? Thankfully, the same organizational tools that keep me doing anything are the ones that keep me honest–remind met that I have, in fact, been productive. While I don’t do eight hours of productive work per day (I usually do 4-6 hours, in all brutal honesty), I didn’t use all eight of the hours of my business day productively when I was an office assistant, either. A lot of my days were frittered away by little distractions. Now at least I can be honest about when I’m distracted and when I’m productive. At this point I use two systems to keep track of myself: a to-do list in the form of project management software called Asana (free! online! good!), and a spreadsheet to keep track of my time based on one Wendy Call introduced me to years ago. These are my spider-web strands that I catch time with.
The wilderness is very simple: much of your day is involved with meeting your basic needs and getting from one point on a topo map to another point on a topo map. Front country gets complicated. The stars go quiet and the buzz of to-do lists, projects, work, and social media start up again. But the lovely thing is, we’ve got both.