Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Staying Serene--and Productive--on Election Day

It's a beautiful sunny day here in San Francisco--a respite from the days of pouring rain we've had. That's cause enough for excitement, but the election has me more giddy than I can communicate. There's a sense of hopping enthusiasm in my every action today, an election-based ADD. Right now, I'm fighting the urge to go outside and see how long the wait is at my polling place--to document it like the reporter I am. This feels historic in so many ways, and there's at least one ballot measure here in California that will effect my life personally. My mind keeps jumping from my work to daydreams of what will happen if my candidate wins, if that scary ballot measure passes, if voters--any voters--are kept from the polls.

I'm distracted. All I want to do is be with friends and watch the results roll in. It turns out that I'm not alone. Starting yesterday, I saw comments from other freelancers all over the country--and in other countries--reporting a similar lack of focus, an inability to do work. The brilliant freelance writer (and Canadian) Diane Selkirk calls it Election Distraction Disorder.

It turns out I don't have ADD. I have EDD.

And if you do, too, you may be fighting with yourself to work, or to play hookie. In any case, getting paid work done may be a challenge for you today. So I asked other self-employed people what they're doing to treat their EDD. Here are my favorites:

* Work on election-related stories: Friend and former j-school colleague John McGrath reports, "I've been doing nothing but work on elections stuff for the past month--helping write the programs that will supply the NYTimes.com [where he works] with updated election data--called races, exit polls, demographic data, etc., for the whole country, down to the county level--every few minutes throughout the evening and night tomorrow. Which is the perfect cure for EDD--have a job that requires you to be drowning in election data all day, every day."

To translate this to freelancers, you can use your election obsession to brainstorm and pitch stories based on the election. It doesn't have to be literal: Interesting personalities, trends, etc., are all fodder for the query mill. This will give you an excuse to think about the election and work on your marketing.

* Use work to distract yourself from EDD: Writer Earon Davis reports that work is the only think keeping himself sane right now. "My EDD is too powerful," he says. "The only reason I'm getting my work done is that it helps keep my mind off of the elections for a brief time. This is a stressful time - dealing with lots of fears about the elections. It feels like the stakes are unusually high. So, I do as much work as I can - and then get updated with the Internet, TV and even radio."

* Reward yourself: My friend and fellow freelancer Kimberly Olsen and meditation teacher Algernon D'Ammassa both are using the carrot-and-stick approach to EDD. "If I complete a specific task (say, write 500 words for a story I'm working on), I can then watch 15 minutes of CNN or check pollster.com," says Olsen. You can also set a timer and write/call/work for 15 minutes and watch TV for 5 minutes or whatever you decide. That way, you know you're getting work done and you're getting your politics fix.

* Vote early: Massage therapist and freelance writer Ramona Turner reports that she voted by mail so she could put her part of the election behind her and move on. Some are combining this with...

* Limit your TV/radio/political blog time: Freelance writer and designer Mariann Garner-Wizard looks at the 24-hour political news stations this way: "The talking heads can only be repeating themselves now -- the play has started, and we can only wait for the dust to settle to see who comes up with the ball." In other words, you aren't missing anything. Really. It's okay to just work for a few hours.

Then there are a big group of people who are waving the white flag.

"I'm no longer attempting to stem the disorder," reports financial journalist and fellow j-school alum Charles Keenan. "The major papers, Huffington Post, Daily Kos et all are like crack, so I might as well feed the addiction. After all, it's been a while since we've felt this good of a vibe in a presidential election. Time to indulge."

If you're endulging too, here are some sane ways to do it:

* Make it official. Take today off. Look at your calendar and reschedule what you have planned. Greg Poulos, president of Bluefin Productions, reports that he's taking off the last half of Tuesday off and Wednesday morning, as well.

* Volunteer for the causes you believe in: It's not too late to join last-minute electioneering. If you set aside half the day or even just an hour of your day for your favorite candidate or cause you can give yourself a political outlet, do your part, and still be able to concentrate the rest of the day.

* Remember, it's your right to care about the election: One of the joys of living in a democracy is that we have a say in our government. We should be engaged and excited. "Don't fear EDD!" urges life coach Cindy Eubanks. "This is an historic time in our country--a presidential election like no other we have seen. Allow yourself the hours leading up to the election and the day after to immerse yourself in it without guilt. This is a time to pay attention!"

As for me, I have a bunch of interviews scheduled and will do them. I'm with Earon. I want to distract myself. And what better way than with income-generating work, and thinking about other things that are important. Plus, I wrote this blog post.

How are you dealing with your EDD?

No comments: