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Being disciplined at home harder than, say, in the army


need to find more balance in my life, but it’s not working.

I’m not as powerful as the magnet that draws me to my computer, even when there’s nothing I need to do. Or the Shoe Magnet that mysteriously convinces family shoes to huddle around the kitchen file cabinet like it’s a feed trough.

I began defining these things after I started working at home a few years ago, doing a little of this and a little of that to make a little of that other that … money.

I multi-task for reasons of economic reality, but — let’s face it — it’s also because of genetic predisposition, what with my attention span of a sand flea.

But variety appeals to me.

I have no trouble jumping from subject to topic, hopping to Subject No. 2 and then moseying on back to Topic No. 1, or jumping to Subject No. 3.. But what I don’t like is structured jumping and hopping.

I prefer it to happen spontaneously, not as the result of something vague like being disciplined or having to pay the electric bill. This would explain why I’m so well-suited to work independently

I’m my own best boss.

I also like to work in binges.  I’d rather concentrate on a general subject area — say writing columns or feature stories, writing songs,  or simply searching obscure websites for such necessities as a 1967 Volkswagen bus.

I can do any of these for hours. What I can’t do is set aside two hours for one thing, two hours for another, an hour for a third and stick to it. Not napping before 10 a.m. is all the self-discipline I can muster.

I’ve been in binge paradise the last couple of weeks, loading myself down with writing assignments and accepting new ones you’d think came with a cash bonus.

I prioritize, set goals, wake up before the sun comes up and get right to work. Most of what I do is at the computer or on the phone, which means that by 9:45 I’m bleary, hoarse and as numb as someone  prepping for twin root canals.

It’s in this state that the binge worker is easy pickings for the computer magnet. Unable to distinguish reality from compulsion, I can’t pass the computer without checking e-mail or the latest prices on six-string banjos.

I know I should exercise or go out for a walk. Instead, I rationalize that loading dishes is somehow physical labor. This activity briefly extracts me from the computer’s gravitational pull, but it also brings me to the kitchen, where the family shoes are gathered around the magnetic field of the oak filing cabinet like there’s a meeting about to begin.

On the way to unload the dishwasher, I see the shoes and begin to pick them up, which, in my mind, is very beneficial physical activity.

Trouble is, the shoes belong near the front door, which means I have to walk past the computer. God help me if I hear one of those alerts that announces the arrival of an e-mail. You’ve got a distraction!

It takes all my willpower not to sit back down at my desk. On good days, I stay on task and return to the kitchen as if seduced by the siren song of caked pizza cutters and dishes decorated with petrified mozzarella cheese.

On bad days, I take a nap. On really bad ones, I sit back at my computer and come to attention. The auction on the 1967 Volkswagen bus closes in an hour.

You can reach David Knopf at

By David Knopf •

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