Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Slow Idea

The March 2009 National Geographic magazine includes an article on reducing energy consumption at home, which I read yesterday afternoon. One of the suggestions was to turn off your computer when you aren't using it. In fact, turn off any electrical appliance you are not using, including chargers. I thought, sure, why not? So I turned off our computer and then, for good measure, went into our TV room and turned off the power center for the room, which includes our cable modem and wireless network hub.

I decided I would only turn them on when either Elly or I wanted to use the computer.

Three or four times today I thought, I'll go check my email, or I'll look something up on the Internet, and then each time it occurred to me the whole schmear was turned off so I skipped it. And then it dawned on me, Hey! This isn't such a bad thing!

In addition to saving energy, it also reduces distraction. I mean, leaving your computer on all the time isn't quite the same thing as running your television for background noise (you know who you are), but it makes it WAY too simple (tempting) to drop anything you are doing to just have a quick peek at something on the computer. We all know what happens next: two hours later you are wondering where all the time went. Instead of leaving the computer on, why not decide exactly when, and how much time you will spend on the computer, blocking out a specific period for computer stuff, and then leave it turned off and don't use it any other time of the day?

I certainly liked what happened today. I'm going to keep this up for a while and see how it goes.

BTW, one afternoon Elly and I spent some time mulling over what things make life more hectic. We easily came up with a list of four items, and then spent the rest of our time pondering how and why they have the effect they do. These are, in no particular order:

  • Cell phones

  • Television

  • Cars

  • Personal computers

The argument here isn't to do with out these things -- we're not Luddites -- but to manage them to improve the quality of our lives instead of running us ragged.

We turned off broadcast television years ago. We still watch movies and serial programming, but only what is available on DVD (through Netflix), with VERY rare exceptions like Presidential elections. No broadcast TV, cable, or dish. The result has been wonderful. It was not a difficult transition at all, and it removed perhaps the major source of stress from our lives.

Cars have a similar, though perhaps less insidious effect, as computers. It is simply too easy to hop in the car and spend your day running around. When was the last time you had a "car-free" day. That is, when you did not get in a car at all for a 24 hour period? Staying home is a great way to slow down and enjoy life more. And save money and the environment at the same time too. It takes a little planning, but not that much.

Thoughts about these four technologies will be regular features in my slowing down posts.

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