The infinite queue

For better or worse, queues are how I’ve come to view nearly every aspect of my life, and I know I’m not alone. Apart from some work-related responsibilities, nearly every other dimension of my life flows into “one” sinuous, malleable, and ever-growing list of things to digest and process. This includes queues for Netflix, DVR, RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Pocket, Kindle books, personal/work email, skeletons of blog posts, etc. etc. etc. It quite literally never ends.

Lucky for me my infinite queue intersects nicely with work such that reading, learning, assimilating information, and generally keeping up with the world (especially tech) helps me excel at my job.

Each of us has a limited (average) number of heartbeats (assuming you stay relatively healthy and don’t suffer a freak accident), and if you think constantly of that it’s hard to get away from the pressure of always trying to do as much as you can and never waste time. For me, queues really are the only way to handle this pressure…and to keep a handle on what’s been ‘accomplished.’

Much of this pressure is self-created, and at any point I probably could shut off many of these overflowing pipes and get on with my life, but that’s just not how I’m wired — this is my life. I think this is becoming the case for more of us over time; we’re all becoming obsessive completionists (with respect to certain things). Algorithmic ranking can help some people with some of these things, but not all of them, as many have to be completed.

I used to pride myself on how much I could accomplish in a single day, and while I’ve backed away from that metric a fair bit in my old age, it’s still a yard stick I can’t get away from completely. I’ve learned to be a bit better about not letting this over-abundance of information control me, but I do let things accumulate (or rather, snowball), and so at some point the length of certain lists becomes almost comical.

I guess it could be argued that this is nothing special to me, or humans generally these days, and that it’s been at least semi-normal since the dawn of our species. But, I think a big difference at this point in time is that many of the tasks are so discrete and plentilful (e.g., power through 1000 tweets/day) that in aggregate they seem more insurmountable than in the past (e.g., milk our three cows, sow two rows of seeds, harvest the ripe plants, make dinner for four, go to bed, etc.).

I’m not sure what any of this means, but I do know that I probably should stop typing here and get back to my queue.

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