So WHERE’S MY DAMNED COFFEE CUP?

 
 
 

WITH SPRING BREAK ON THE HORIZON, I can unequivocally state that I stand with millions of Americans  in having no regrets that this brutal winter is, well–almost history.

Still, the endless cold did seem to provide me with an unanticipated benefit–it made things much simpler. Perhaps the dark and icy nights forced me inward, becoming more reflective about the handful of things that are ultimately important, like having a warm and secure homestead. At any rate, instead of trying to manage my usual complement of unmanageable New Year’s Resolutions, I have found myself in recent months focusing on correcting just a couple of midlife irritants–starting with the habit of losing my coffee cup.

This seems to be happening a lot these days, as I work in my home office, spending hours in front of the computer, while trying to take frequent, ergonomically recommended breaks. I walk into other rooms, coffee in hand, attending to tasks, discovering other tasks and remembering still more to-do items–determined to maintain high-octane multi-tasking. Before returning to my desk, I stop to retrieve my coffee cup. Of course, I have no idea where I left it.

I retrace my steps. It should be easy to reconstruct where I “logically” put down my cup, but no. My Brain vs. My Brain on Distraction are two different things, and there is no logic to where I haphazardly put down my coffee cup while task-hopping. To make matters worse, I am sometimes struck by a related affliction known as destinasia, a condition (so coined by pundits at the Urban Dictionary) you suffer from when walking into a room to do something, only to discover that you’ve forgotten what your were going there for. Destinasia plus cafenasia:  a deadly one-two punch.

Eventually, I do find my cup, but not through any logical recollection. Rather, I try to re-imagine my state of preoccupation, looking in locations that make no sense for the placement of a coffee cup–except to someone whose physical actions, for the moment, are unrelated to rational thought. Crazy, but it works.

Sometimes I suspect that coffee, itself, is the problem. Even when I know exactly where my coffee is–whether it’s at home or in a takeout container on the train, or the car or someone else’s office–I have another (probably related) issue: spilling it.  While typing or talking, gesticulating or shifting my elbow, or absently trying to pick up the cup without looking, I manage to spill its contents on my shirt, my tie or all across my desk. (Isn’t that special?)

But don’t blame Joe.  Hot liquids and distracted people are rarely a good combination. Besides, why do I insist on clutching my coffee through every turn of my daily routine? I suppose it may reveal an unspoken desire to hold on to some warm, steady comfort–a sense of control amid the bluster of competing priorities, unexpected digressions and anxieties.

And I’m OK with that. But what I’m not OK with is a more troubling possibility: my coffee mishaps serve as a greater metaphor for Living While Distracted. Now that’s something worth changing.

So my only resolution this year is to stop living under the influence of constant distraction. Resist the temptation to multi-task. Stop trying to do too much, too fast. Stay centered on fewer things and finish what you start before toggling to another task. These will be the core of Roel’s Rules of Order.

I know that in my first attempts I’ll feel the anxiety of not feeling the buzz of over-activity.  Steady; take a breath. Don’t worry about leaving the coffee behind–at least I won’t lose the cup or spill it on my tie. Ultimately, if I can accomplish that by the summer solstice, I’ll be grateful for our winter of discontent.

–Ron Roel

Forty Forward!