Papers in piles on the floor being organised

Lets get back to the old school – ways of working…

Sitting at the end of probably the worst week ever that would have been possible to begin a year with. Four days in, we have entered another national lockdown, with the children off school again, after having been back only one day. 

I am sitting here getting angrier and angrier with the issues I am experiencing with technology. The laptop I have been sent is not working with the second monitor that I usually have, the wifi drivers keep failing and to top it off the whole house’s internet connection has been off since this morning.

I realised, rather than getting frustrated (which I was and it’s not good for well being, resilience or mental health) I stepped back from the situation and realised that despite my reliance on this technology and connectivity, I did not depend upon it to actually do my work. I am thirty eight, and although I had internet access consistently from the time I was studying for my ‘A’ levels and first degree, it was dial up which meant that the pages took a long time to load, the reliability of the service was questionable and the opportunity to store information in the cloud and use this facility as a dump for data and information was non-existent. I still managed to study, produce some amazing work and get a bloody good mark though.

Perhaps this situation is the answer I am looking for; to explore more focused ways of working for my PhD though. This experience is the prompt that I need, the pause to look at my situation differently.

What I do have access to, even with no wifi:

  • An excellent laptop and a comfortable work station
  • A mobile phone which I can send and answer emails on and access the internet, and if required, tether a hotspot connection to for short periods of time
  • A printer (can I connect my mobile to my printer through Bluetooth?) – note yes I can but I only found out because of needing to get past the shit caused by the lack of wifi
  • The ability to conduct meetings online through my mobile app via teams and skype (I am not out of touch with my colleagues and professional networks)
  • Pen and paper, lots of both
  • Wall space and post it notes
  • My brain
  • A print out of planners for the next week of my calendar and diary that I can update manually (an analogue diary)
  • I have a telephone land line that I can make and receive calls on if required
  • An FM radio I can listen to music on and receive news through
  • A scanner and copier if I want to reproduce anything
  • The ability to record audio from myself and online meetings and upload this to the cloud.

The truth is that I am still better connected and equipped with all this stuff than I ever was for my undergrad degree, even without a wifi connection.

It’s funny how your perspective can change when you start to think about a situation differently.

One of the things that I wanted to and certainly need to work on, is thinking about my reading and writing time; finding time, staying focused and being consistent. There are umpteen apps for ‘improving’ your productivity and quality of output in these areas, but the truth of the matter is that people have been undertaking these activities and doing a pretty good job of them for centuries without the ‘advantages’ of digital technologies and connectivity to aid them.

Perhaps the answer that I am seeking is actually staring me in the face and I have to switch off and reduce the level of technological ability that I have. I need to appoint days where I begin with my phone and laptop on aeroplane mode so that I can work without distraction and interruption. Both roam research and google docs have local functionality that I have make use of to avoid the onerous task of remembering to upload my work, I can still take advantage of some of the digital tech’ that enable local versions of themselves whilst still enjoying the advantages of the efficiency of these products and services. This flexibility is what I can exploit to return to some of the working practices of my twenties.

Even not having my monitor working has meant that I am working differently. I’m not chained to my desk and have spent more time organising myself on the floor. Even writing this blog post has meant that I have thought about the possibility of lowering my desk to make it at the height at which I can work at it squatting on a very low stool or even self supporting in a primal squat at times.

Update: I decided to get rid of my kneeling chair and lower my desk and overall I’m really pleased with it. I’ll definitely be posting some pictures of my work and living space soon.

Update 2: This process of reflection was really useful and has made some quite significant changes to my work and living space.