Friday, April 1, 2011

Setting up shop

I waved my diary, receipt book, notes-book, computer towards the class.  “This is all that I need to run my business,”, making a virtue of simplicity.  “I can be productive in life’s corners and the day’s spare moments”.

Good in theory. 

I can set up in a pub, in the Starbucks, at the mall, in a library


and I often do. Convenient, but I’m wondering if it might also be making iit harder to work rather than easier.

Two things are missing in this scheme: unbroken time and purposeful space.

PBS ran a series called The Astronomers, interviewing scientists pondering the limits of what we see and know.  They talked with Kip Thorne at his Oregon beach house, far from his students, colleagues, and laboratories.  “I need large blocks of uncommitted time to follow a thought and to compose insightful answers,” he shrugged: his beach house held the world back for hours or days while he got his head around disparate data and unified theories.

A doctor commented on the way that the ‘always-on’ internet interfered with, rather than facilitated, patient care.  “Patients used to come to my office: we’d sit in a room, talk about their problems.  It was committed space.  Now, health questions come by e-mail, people talk with the nurse from the supermarket.  The space reserved for the doctor blurs into the rest off the spaces in their lives, and something is lost.”

My portable office and fragmented day may be similarly blurring spaces and truncating thoughts.  Can we work while moving, think while interrupting?  Sure my lists get completed, tasks finished as I fit them, Tetris-like into the gaps in the day.  But I increasingly feel like I am missing the big issues: what is the vehicle for Stone Bridge, how should the remote monitoring project move atelier-paul-cezanne-01ahead, what is the best way to determine whether a muscle is properly anesthetized, how do I apply MVC architecture to organizing patient data?  Those answers only come with blocks of time in purposeful spaces, a  business atelier or academic workshop.

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