Friday, July 02, 2010

Responsibility as a bottleneck

I'm lucky enough to work at a company that tries give me all the resources I need to get my job done. Yet I've felt overwhelmed a lot lately, even, no especially when I find myself goofing off a lot. And it's because I've exceeded my capacity for responsibility.

I got the idea from hyperbole and a half, and it explains a lot of phenomena in our society.

Let's say I decide to take a for-fun class a the local college. And it's time to go to class now.

Oh wait, the car is parked at another building. And it's low on gas; should I fill up before I go? And my books are at home. Do without them?

You now have 4 things to do or decisions to make, all before class starts. Classes have about 16 - 48 class sessions. If going to class each time involves 4 little tasks, that's up to 200 little obstacles you'll have to handle, just to get to all the classes. Then there's registration, books, tests, and assignments. No wonder people don't take more classes on their own.

Calendars help, but how do you schedule keeping the gas tank full? Or remembering where you parked?

Here's the point: there's a limit to the number of things I can keep track of, and the number of decisions I can make in a day. And that holds me back more than my capacity to do the "actual" labor required to execute those decisions.

I don't surf the internet like a zombie for hours because the internet is so interesting or addicting. It's because it's stateless. I don't have to remember what I see, or take action on it in three days' time, or have it cascade into dozens of other pressing tasks.


Braden said...


Anonymous said...

I like your thinking that the internet is "stateless".

I have whiled away many an hour, like a zombie on the internet for this reason - but I like having a term for it now!