At the beginning of the Deliberative Democracy conference today, our excellent moderator said that the one factor that affects the quality of a meeting that is in our control is the degree to which we maintain focus. It’s crucial really to be in the room, not distracted by thoughts of going online or checking voicemail or planning one’s next day. I did a good job of focusing, as I will again on Friday for Day Two of the conference. However, her caution was really necessary. I’m finding it almost impossible to be fully “present,” anywhere. My days this summer are almost completely booked and scheduled, and waiting for me late at night is always a very long list of emails to answer. I don’t mind any of this work; in fact, I seek most of it voluntarily. It’s a series of interesting opportunities. It’s also coherent at a conceptual level–all of it connects to “civic renewal” in one way or another. But at a psychological level, I feel increasingly fragmented; unable to concentrate on any task because of the pressure to keep thinking about the other ones. Everyone I know has the same complaint, which suggests that the problem has sociological (or technological) roots; it’s not simply my fault for over-committing myself.