Saturday, July 23, 2011


If you're a Mac owner, the big deal this weekend is OS X Lion, the new version of the Apple operating system.  It's got a number of very interesting innovations, including being distributed without discs or boxes, and bringing some iPhone- and iPad-like interfaces to the computer.

One fascinating feature of the distribution is that a single download of the OS can be installed on all the computers a person owns.  I have a copy of the installer, but I'm not going to double-click until I free up a lot more space on my (rather skimpy) MacBook Air hard drive.

I'm doing that by splitting my 35 GB iPhoto library in two and putting all the older photos onto an external disk.  But I don't feel secure having the only copy of those files in only one place, so I'm not deleting the photos from my laptop iPhoto library (and getting back that disk space) until I upload a copy to Flickr.

Which I'm doing as fast as I can.  But it points to a character trait that bedevils me sometimes.  I can't start something I want to do unless I feel ready, and that often means getting a bunch of preliminary things done first.  I know people who would just dive in, but  not me.  I'm a scene-setter.  I'm a two-steps-backer.

It doesn't always make me happy, this need to get all my affairs in order before enjoying myself.  In fact, it sometimes keeps me from doing things I want to do.  I end up frustrated and feeling impotent, having gotten nothing done because I couldn't get far enough back to get the requisite running start.  And I have plenty of good examples where taking the opposite tack -- jumping in with both feet -- has paid off handsomely.  When nobody's life or livelihood is at stake, when the worst that might happen is that you'll learn something by making a couple of mistakes, why not just do it?

What I'm most concerned about, I think, is my precious time.  If I've got a free afternoon or evening, I want to do something rewarding with it.  Then the search for something rewarding becomes a high-stakes affair, and nothing seems good enough.  That's when I start convincing myself that I can't do x until I've done y and z, and if I do y and z today I won't get to x, and y and z are not a rewarding way to use my limited free time.

The problem just gets worse when free time begins to be in shorter supply, and that's the case here at the end of the summer.  Nevertheless, I have managed to overcome my self-defeating procrastination and get some things done.  I hope that when my schedule returns to academic-year normal, I'll look back on the summer and feel like I made progress on things I wanted to do three months ago.

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