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Losing time to technology
Time Deficiency Syndrome

Alireza Abouhossein
August 11, 2004

Have you ever noticed how many people keep complaining of lack of time? It goes like this: Essi Joon, I swear to Barbara's life, I didn't get a chance to call or answer your emails! ... I have been bombarded with work and don't know how to manage all the stress and pressure! ... ShooShoo Joon, I am stressed out! No time to do anything I had planned...

Those people who make these types of complaints are suffering from what I call, Time Deficiency Syndrome (TDS).

We live in times when people are constantly complaining of lack of time. I keep wondering... humanity has invented all kinds of technological gadgets to make life easier and provide more time to enjoy ourselves, and yet we still complain of lack of time! Anxiety has been reported to be a direct psychological consequence of a state known as lack of time. I just recently read that anxiety levels today are higher than those of psychiatric patients in the 1950s!

It might be improper to say anything against what technology has created for us by an engineer whose life is depends on PDAs, computers, and the Internet! Though, I believe a big chunk of these complaints is directly related to the use of modern technology.

As proof, consider the many new words that people and professionals are using to describe their modern state of mind. One common term is "techno-stress", feeling of frustration and stress caused by having to deal with changes brought on by computers and other technologies.

For example, people used to leave the office and that was the end of their long day. However, today with the use of cell phones, pagers, and email, workers are under constant stress because technically they are always connected and have no down time.

I bet there has been at least once in your techno-oriented life that computer problems have interrupted your work or you missed work deadlines because of hardware or software problems (I know... you just said, "Tell me about it!").

A major disaster happened to me when my computer got infected by a virus just a week before I submited my Masters thesis! I am sure many of you have begged a computer or some gadget to pleeeeeeeease give back files containing a drawing or a report typed 5 minutes earlier. Or you have probabaly pleaded to a microwave to actually warm up your food rather than burning or turning it into a cancerous hazard!

Devices have long been a source of frustration and anger, resulting in more time being spent to finish a job. Based on my experience, devices have natural antipathy toward human beings. Almost every day, we hear the term from someone around us that "things are against me" or "I am sure nothing is working my way"! Just imagine how much time we spend learning how new technologies with their related phrases can help improve our hectic life!

Books, magazines, newspapers, by-laws and manuals not only bombard us with tons of information where we have to comprehend them, but also through the Internet and instant access to information resources under our finger tips, we have increased this world of human-machine interaction. Just kindly add the number of emails, newsgroups and weblogs you read everyday, then you would be able to understand why we receive such an excessive amount of anxiety.

We usually receive such a large pile of information that we have a hard time planing how to classify or process them, not to mention comprehend and manage for later usage. Planning for such a large data input is a monumental task. We may lose track of proper planning and management of our resources and abilities. As a result we do not use our time in the most efficient way.

Another big factor is something that is known as the desire to handle many jobs simultaneously. To handle many jobs in one working day requires a daunting amount of planning and efficient usage of our time. However, with the overload of information -- plus Tehran's traffic where it takes 2 hours instead of 10 minutes to go from point A to B -- we may even forget what we had really aimed for! I think we have a great Persian expression for this: picking up watermelons with one hand (bardaashtan-e chand taa hendoneh baa yek dast!).

I always wonder whether there is a way to ease technological anxiety and TDS? I honestly do not know since the changes around us is not something in our control. I think with so much desire for a better life, we would have a hard time seeing things getting any better. However, I would suggest it makes it meaningful for us from time to time if we turn everything off for a while and stand back to evaluate our status. Or just tell yourself, I always make time for things that are affecting my soul... leave all the watermelons on the ground!

.................... Peef Paff spam!

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