Saturday, October 24, 2009

Right-ward pacing

I play softball at work with my co-workers. Our in-field is really really good. We have great people at first base, third base and shortstop positions.

I haven’t really learnt softball/baseball as properly as some of these guys did, so I observe their technique with great interest. Our shortstop (let’s call him T) throws the ball in a very specific manner. He picks up the ball or catches it off the bounce, gets into position and then pauses for maybe half a second. Then he lets the ball go to first/third base depending on what’s necessary.

That stop is key. He could, like a lot of people I’ve seen, release the ball as soon as it hits his hands. But he stops, makes sure his body and arm are in perfect position and then positively rockets the ball to the right player (I did say our in-field is good). The half-second margin he gives himself adds a lot of things: it ensures his body and arm are in position, he has a clear assessment of where he has to throw the ball to be most effective, guarantees the accuracy of his throw and prevents injuries. In all likelihood, he more than regains the time lost during the pause through the speed of his eventual throw, since he’s never in a suboptimal position while throwing.

As we navigate our way through this wired, ever-connected, faster! faster! world, this is a parallel I think about a lot. I see people all around me with the dial set to 11, furiously multitasking. Updating Facebook status at concert? Check. Tweeting while watching a movie? Check. Email while hanging out with friends (in lieu of real conversation)? Check. Doing more! All the time! With less time!? Check.

While in and of themselves, I have no problem with any of these, the question I ask is: as we navigate through our lives, faster and faster, doing more and more things, are we still in sight of what matters? I can only speak for myself, but the more overscheduled I get, the more important it becomes for me to unplug and just be. I find something vital about disconnecting and letting my brain float. Long stretches of time, at home or outside where I have no clear agenda are worthwhile. I may read for a while, watch Once for the nth time or just make a cup of chai and stare out my balcony.

I saw an interesting talk at my workplace by Carl Honore, the author of In Praise of Slowness where he talks about doing things not too fast or too slow, but at the right pace. In part, it was a relief to see I wasn’t the only person who felt this way.

What does this mean for me apropos life on a day-to-day basis? Unplugging a bit more, saying ‘no’ occasionally to random stuff that doesn’t really make me happy anyway and less multi-tasking, so I’m engaged with what I am doing. Somehow right now this seems to mean shorter yet more productive workdays, a clearer and less stressed-out brain and a happier me. What’s to not like?

Edit: Fixed typo.


Ramanand said...

Nice post. It's a topic that I often think of, and finding the right pace seems important than doing everything I want to.

Anonymous said...

Less multi-tasking - these words are really so important. When I became a Mom, and was working full-time, thats when I thought the more I could multi-task the better things would be. Turned out to be the opposite. I still need to multi-task sometimes, but I consciously try to draw the line. Nowadays, when I'm cooking I cook, and when I'm playing I play, and when I'm taking care of N i'm doing only that. Its such a relief not to put undue pressure on myself to get too much done. Actually, too much does not need to get done. Few really important things need to get done.

Ajay said...

Kopili: I wrote a post on this topic a year or so back too. Link here . Multi-tasking and distractions is an ongoing battle. But shutting things out and focusing on one thing at a time works for me.