In 2008, I was busier in my average day than ever before. But I’ve got less to show for my effort. I wrote less posts, produced less design, met less people, worked less, lived less and even smiled less.
A web world of distractions
I noticed a great increase in the distractions I made part of my day last year.
Live and direct to my screen and phone, my hundreds of Twitter friends post dozens of messages and links to articles and sites and photos and videos being updated as I load them.
In Contrast, a Tweet about or by any of the team or about our apps comes right into our Campfire room, with an attention-grabbing ping and a warning-red coloured indicator to advise me how much I don’t know about the past 10 seconds.
Links I miss in Twitter get linked by those I subscribe to in my reader. I’m subscribed to a couple hundred feeds; Google Reader gives me the keyboard power I need to quickly scan but not really read or really think about them. But it humours me anyway by marking them “read”.
My Fluid apps for different e-mail accounts flash their little unread indicators too, while Google Calendar announces with its bouncing icon at 16:25: “Meeting with [new client] at 16:30” and Skype pops a little chat screen in my face from [old client]: “Hi Eoghan. Can you chat for 5 minutes?”
First thing in the morning, after I step from the shower, before I go to work, en route to work, at work, at lunch, at meetings, at dinner, while I get ready for bed and last thing at night I check: e-mail, Twitter, feeds, stats, Campfire.
What the hell have I become? I’m a wholesale consumer of useless information I already know about five minutes ago; a genuine data glutton. But what’s worse, I’m not just some freak specimen of the modern man that went wrong, I’m a typical web worker “keeping up-to-date”. And I know far too many people with this same problem. In fact, you’re probably one of them.
A real world of distractions
But that’s just what you get for being a web worker; for everybody in the 21st century, we’re expected to process so much more. A quiet mind is not “normal”, so we fill it with junk. Many streams of junk.
For example, Sky News, in addition to a newscaster, has a ticker with the top headlines for you to parse. And if that’s not enough, they have a “breaking news” ticker too. And if that’s not enough, their bulletin has gone from “on the hour” to every half-hour to every fifteen minutes. So don’t worry about trying to actually comprehend any of the crap they’re feeding you, because you’ll get it again in another fifteen minutes, then fifteen minutes later, and so on. I remember fondly how dentist’s waiting rooms used to be havens of quiet, serene nervousness; now my dentist has Sky News in the room. And on the ceiling in the clinic! And “Brown Thomas” have little screens with Sky News on them over their urinals; because taking a leak is boring, I guess.
A distraction-free year
I believe that procrastination feeds on these distractions and that my personal productivity has decreased due to the time, energy and thoughtspace I’ve given them. I believe that a distracted mind is no place for innovation, problem-solving and creativity. And happiness.
This year when I walk to work, I’m going to… walk to work! And relax.
When I get to work, I’m going to… work! And do it really, really well.
When I read books and blogs, I’m going to… read them! Really read them. And learn from them too.
When I eat my dinner I’m going to… eat my dinner! And enjoy it.
I’m going get happy by killing distractions and getting more done. I suggest you try the same.