15/01/2014 by Chris Green
I have a desk. But my friend Peter has two.
Why? Why two desks when he can only use one at a time?
Because he’s a shrewd old Christian, and he knows the temptation of the mind, even a disciplined mind, to flit to the nagging task that is calling for our attention, away from the deep task of being immersed in God’s word so we can feed others.
So he has set up (this is not a metaphor – he really has done this) an ‘office’ desk and a ‘study’ desk. And he knows, by which desk he’s sitting at, which task he’s engaged in.
I think that is brilliant, if eccentric. It is a crystal clear piece of self-control.
Most of us can’t do that Maybe we don’t have the luxury of space that Peter has: his study is large, and can take two desks.
But most of us can’t do that technologically any more, either. I take the same computer tool with me whichever desk I sit at. It’s got my sermon notes and bible software – but by the same token it has the minutes of the meetings and my email. And my ultra-portable desk even follows me into the ‘switch-off’ zone. I’m typing this on my laptop, on my lap.
What to do?
Become a Luddite and unplug. I do this increasingly with sermon prep. I don’t have much of my commentary library in electronic form, and I hesitate to take the plunge. I use BibleWorks for language research but then I print out and switch off.
I don’t think this is a generational thing. After all, I’ve been programming computers since I was 11. I’m not a reactionary. No, it’s to do with fooling the brain. I need to get it out of it’s itchiness where it wants to check the email, Facebook, blogstats. Pen, pencil and paper slow me down and force me to focus.
Become a Luddite and keep the old technology. I have an elderly PC that runs Windows XP. It’s not the laptop I’m working on now, because (a) it’s too heavy to keep on my lap, and (b) it gets very hot and uncomfortable on my lap. It runs Word and Bibleworks and stuff like that, slowly.
But here’s what I’ve started to like. I have to insert a wireless card. It’s of the age when wifi was so new, that having a slide-in adaptor was absolutely the thing. And I bought one.
So now, if I leave that little card at home, I have a laptop that cannot access wifi. Not even the hotspot on my phone. It’s cut off from the world.
What this means is I can have the advantage of some good software and resources, and taking and writing notes, but I cannot, absolutely cannot, check my email. Later on I can plug it in, and then I can sync it onto Dropbox and Evernote.
It also means I’m seen in public with an elderly Dell in a cracked plastic case, rather than something sleek designed in California. Which is good for the humility.
It’s not having two desks, but it is having two laptops. Because I’ve learned that, to do my sermon prep I really don’t need access to the web. And I’ve worked out how the web has an off-switch.
- Have you discovered that ‘itchy mind’ syndrome, which craves constant updates from the web?
- What tips and tools have you discovered to calm it down?