Dude, You Suck at Multitasking
I have a confession to make. I’m an interrupt junkie. Sure, I’ve read what Tim Ferriss has to say, and what Leo Babauta has to say, and what pretty much everyone else has to say, but it’s always been one of those ‘other people’ kind of topics for me. You know, like, you should totally eat more leafy greens, and excercise more, and hey, would it kill you to call your Mom today? That stuff.
I’ve read it, and not cared with the best of them. Until now. I recently realized, no doubt because I was actually trying to get something done instead of procrastinating as usual, that interruptions are pretty fucking annoying. And since I frequently have the attention span of a field mouse (oh, shiny!), then every time I get an email notification or IM or phone call or whatever it is this ten seconds, my concentration jumps to the new, random topic. Which, of course, derails my current train of thought. Getting back on track is harder and more irritating than working through the current task at hand, due to the Law of Work Inertia, which states that it is easier to stay on task or procrastinate forever than to actually get any work done.
So, with that said, here’s the new plan:
No more email notifications. You know what? If it’s that important, they can call me. Nobody in their right mind sends a note in a bottle to tell someone they’ve caught on fire. Email is not real-time, get used to it. My mail client will pull mail no more than once an hour. If that.
IM is off, not on busy when I’m doing something. I don’t know about you, but the busy status in IM is more like a red cape where I work than anything else, like my coworkers take it as a personal affront. People will actually IM me to ask, “Are you really busy?” Thanks, jackhole.
Phone is on silent when I’m on task. This one is a bitch. I actually have to turn my phone over, because I can see it light up in the corner of my eye, and then, of course, I have to see who it is. Then either answer it, or listen to the voicemail right then. Which means at that point, I have completely forgotten where I was ten seconds ago. I’m weak, sue me. I do turn the phone back on whenever I’m not in the middle of something. I like to say it’s so I can be available and a team player and all that jazz, but really, I just like it.
I started this about a week ago, and so far it’s been a lot easier to get things done, and suprisingly (to me, at least), a lot less stressful. The first day or so I always had that nagging feeling that I was missing some important something-or-other, but I got over it, and my whole level of OMG EMERGENCY ALERTNESS faded out into something a lot more pleasant.
I recommend it.