Jul 062013

One of the most infuriating things about computers is knowing that we’ve done something before but can’t find how to do it again and we resent the time spent hunting for it

This is very similar to another very common situation – wondering whether it’s worth spending time to resolve small niggles, bugs, etc. The infuriation is probably because we’re in a hurry most of the time and we just want to get things done. We don’t want to divert our attention or time to learn or fix whatever it is that we know is missing or broken.

Infuriation - chewing a laptopIf this sounds familiar and you’re wondering if I’m about to give you the answer … sorry, I’m not. My strategy has always been to keep a list of “technical to-dos” that I’ll attend to when I’m “less busy”. This does work up to a point, but quite often the items that I put on the list just seem boring, tedious and not worth addressing when I look at them later. It’s only when I actually need an answer that the “issue” seems worth the effort of investigation. At any other time, when I don’t actually need the answer, watching Coronation Street seems like a far better investment of my dwindling stock of time. What’s more, lists like this tend to get rather depressing and even a little intimidating.

Niggling listSo, I’ve now added a refinement. I still keep the list, I add to it, and I do investigate and resolve items on it from time to time. The refinement is that I don’t feel guilty if I delete items that I haven’t resolved. My thinking is that, over the time that the item sits unresolved on the list, I will get a truer perspective of how important it is to resolve it. If it stays there for six months and I’ve never again needed the answer, then it’s probably not worth spending time on it. Now that’s what I call a touch of genius – convincing myself that it’s rational to strike an item off a “to do” list rather than attend to it! It’s not the deletion of the item that’s important, here, but the realisation that that may be the logical and best thing to do.

And just in case I’m teetering on the edge of feeling guilty or lazy or anything else that might make me feel uncomfortable, I like to think of those nature programs wherein David Attenborough tells us in hushed tones that the lioness peering through the grass at the herd of wildebeest is weighing up the cost in energy of chasing after her dinner and the chances of being successful, against the benefit of catching it.

Lioness, stalkingPretty good, that – comparing a boring and tedious Google search with stalking the savannah! It does make sense, though. After all, what’s going on here is a “cost/benefit analysis”. I think that one of the things that irritates us so much with these small “IT issues” is that we know in the back of our minds that if we had just spent ten minutes finding the answer a year ago then we’d have saved an hour by now (and suffered much less aggravation along the way). So, keeping an item on a list allows for a better judgement OVER TIME of how important it is to resolve it and whether the time spent to resolve it will be recouped in the long run.

And I think I should be allowed these flights of fancy involving lions and their dinner as I’m told that “Leonard” does mean “lionheart”!

© 2011-2018 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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