For the past four months, I've pretty much lived with my laptop computer at my side.  The internet is just a couple clicks away at any moment, which has made blogging (and keeping in touch with the world) relatively easy.  Any time I have a spare second - on with the computer!  So imagine my dismay the other night when I plugged in the charger for the laptop battery, and...nothing happened.  With a certain amount of cord-wiggling I managed to get in one last charge, and then I spent three hours salvaging as much as I possibly could, moving files onto my desktop computer, and hoping that I got everything.  Then I took a few breaths to survey the new landscape - figuring out how I, laptop computer-less, might go on.

OK, I'm being a little overly dramatic.  The proximity of the laptop computer, though, made it very likely that I would jump online throughout the day, to do this or that.  This or that what, you ask?  Good question!  After only a couple days of laptop-freedom, I've realized just how inefficient it made me to have a computer next to me all the time.  Now that I have to make space in my life to visit my poor, abandoned desktop when I want to be online, it's forced me to be a bit more methodical about what I'm doing when I visit.  And I suddenly have a whole wealth of time on my hands - time that I might not have noticed before, when, given a free minute or two, I might have quickly checked my e-mail or done the aforementioned this-or-that.

Having a diversion perpetually that close-by also was an obstacle to being present - for myself, and especially for my family.  I often found myself hoping that Dash wasn't getting the wrong idea, wondering when he would get his special laptop-computer appendage.  As excellent as it is to be always connected to the world "out there" (where all of you are) - that only makes it all the more important to learn how to focus on the world RIGHT HERE.  Next to me.  And the world next to you.

Today you go into coffee shops, and people are sitting there with their laptop computers on - probably also listening to their iPod.  Tuning out the world that's right there in front of them.  One of the local cafes has declined to get a wireless internet setup - and while that irked me when I found out about it, I suddenly GET it.  Use the computer when it's necessary.  Check your e-mail once or twice per day, max.  The rest of the time - LIVE.  Talk to the person next to you.  Get to know what's happening in your neighborhood, and forget about the headlines on the Yahoo homepage. 

For what it's worth, I've also changed my homepage to Google, which is refreshingly stark and distraction free.  When I sit there and stare at the screen, pondering what I might google, it's an opportunity for me to think "oh.  wait a minute.  I turned on the computer to do something useful, right?  what was that again?" - and back on task.  I like to think that this means you'll have to wait a lot less time to get an e-mail response from me (my apologies to all of you who are waiting - I'm gonna get right on that).

At some point I will get around to re-soldering the power supply jack to my motherboard.  After all, it'll be nice to have the laptop available for traveling and other times when it's actually necessary.  In the meantime, however, I'm enjoying my newfound freedom.  I made a (small) list of all of the things that I actually need a computer for, and I keep it next to me when I'm at the computer, to remind myself of why I'm there and what I need to/ought to be doing. 

  1. Write on the blog(s).
  2. Check e-mail and respond to it.  Correspond with the people I care about.
  3. Pay Bills.
  4. Read other blogs that I care about.
  5. Research things I'm writing about or that are important in my daily life.
  6. Occasionally research random stuff.  Occasionally.  Occasionally.  Like almost never.  Like, if you're doing it right now, you should probably either find something in 1-5 to do and do that instead, or just walk away.  Walk away.  Seriously.  Why are you still sitting there?

So when the things on my list are done, or don't interest me at the moment, I turn the computer off, stand up, and go find something else that needs doing.  Like hanging with Tonya or Dash.  Or washing dishes.  Or writing more music.  Or calling a friend.  Or journaling.  Or...(my non-computer list goes on and on)

Do you have a list of non-computer-related things that aren't getting done?  Remind yourself of why you need the computer - make a list, and restrict yourself to JUST THOSE THINGS.  Make sure that you're prioritizing the non-computer things in your life.  If you have a laptop, try keeping it tucked away in a room where you go to use the computer, and otherwise leaving it there, turned off, while you go about the rest of your day.  I'd never say "kill your computer".  But keep it in its place.