Modern life is ruining my life

BluesCatBluesCat is a 61-year-old Phoenix, Arizona resident who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging ( and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.

We've all found excuses for not riding our bikes to work. I used to get very impatient with myself, because I always thought those excuses were really flimsy; maybe even reflecting an innate laziness; a genuine character flaw.

Not any more, I've discovered that some of those excuses are the result of the high voltage, electronic existence we live today. I can cite a recent, personal incident as a great example.

BluesCat's Office
BluesCat’s Office

Memorial Day evening and I’m prepping the bike for tomorrow’s commute. Tires topped off; check. Clothes rolled up in the towel and stowed in the panniers; check. Headlight battery pack on the charger; check. And… What?

My smart phone buzzes to tell me I have an email, with high priority.

Dang! One of the Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) at the office has failed the battery self test! And it is a BIG ONE! If there is even a minor glitch in the alternating current, with no battery backup a couple of really important file servers could go down, leaving ten to fifteen people sitting on their hands with nothing to do.

Although I’m not going to worry about it tonight (I can shut down those servers remotely from my house, and move them to a backup UPS tomorrow when I get into the office), commuting by bike is out because I’m going to have to take that 40-pound battery pack to the battery shop.

Which means my modern life is, once again, ruining my life! You know, the hunter-gatherers had it easy, working only about 20 hours a week to get food, and another 20 hours a week to keep a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs.

By some estimates, we modern Information Age serfs need to work twice as many hours to do the same thing. Of course, the quality of the food we eat and of the roof over our heads is so much better I don't think many of us would want to trade that for the Stone Age alternative. And without all the high tech gear in the world, it means I wouldn't have the fun job I have, nor would I have the selection of four wonderful bicycles to ride each day.

BluesCat's Server Room
I’m sorry, BluesCat. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Speaking of that fun job, as a System Administrator, a huge paradox occurs to me: wasn't all this geeky stuff supposed to free us up from all the drudgery? How come we do have to work twice as many hours as a cave man? I believe I have found the answer, at least for myself, and the answer is the definition of irony. Because of all the high tech toys I have, in my personal life I have stopped using one of the first, most basic skills I learned in school.

I have stopped writing things down.

I punch buttons on a keyboard rather than jotting notes with pen and paper. I still have a day planner, but it seems like the only time I open it up is to look to see what day of the week it is or whether today is a holiday! Sometimes I don't even do that because I can get that same information from the calendar on my smart phone. It is so easy to just plug an appointment reminder into the calendar on the smart phone that I've quit putting them on the wall calendar at work and on the kitchen wall at home.

As a result, I'm disconnected from my own life. I'm passively reacting to the tyranny of the gadgets; they tell me what to do and when to do it.

Well, that STOPS! TODAY!

Actually, that stopped several days ago, and I've discovered some very interesting things. If the time period I have allotted for a particular task conflicts with another task, I work with the schedule to get both tasks in there (rather than just deleting the reminder from the smart phone calendar). I've also found that assigning a date and time to a particular task–on paper–encourages working on it on that day and at that time.

As a result, I've not only gotten some work tasks done that have been on that virtual, electronic To-Do list for months, but I've had more ride time on the bikes than I've had since the beginning of the year!

Remember though, that this isn't just a matter of transferring my To-Do list back to paper from a computer program. In addition to putting those tasks on the calendar, I put a time to start each one; e.g. "Bike to Work "“ 5:15 AM". In this way I'm taking my personal time management back, "off the grid" where the electronic gremlins can't touch it.

So, if you're looking for a way to get around all those flimsy excuses for not riding to work, here's my tip: put "Commute by Bike "“ 6:00 AM" in that calendar you've got hanging in the kitchen. You may be surprised at how much more motivated you are!

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