Do you usually keep your email/chat notifications on during work or study? So did I, until recently.
I have been reading “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy for a while (which I strongly recommend everyone to read); in his book he mentions that you should remove distracting elements to work more efficiently. In addition I have been seeing that statement on various blogs about working more efficiently (workawesome.com, lifenotion.com, deepexistence.com, lifeoptimizer.org); after reading that removing distracting elements are really important from all these various sources I decided that I should actually try it. It took me a while to test it though—I didn’t think it drained so much time as it did. But the single reason I didn’t want to turn off “everything” was that I always wanted to be available for others.
Here was my train of thought and a bit of analysis:
Do everyone actually need to be able to contact me directly all the time? Do I need to answer and check email directly? It didn’t take long to figure out that: No, most of the things can actually wait. I should not need to rearrange my time so that it works for everyone else. Note, although I did turn off email notification and chat messaging, people could still call me—meaning if something was really important, that could not wait, they could call me.
The next step was to analyze if it actually took time from studying etc. I thought of all the times I had been interrupted the last week. When I got an email I got an notification in both the smartphone and on my computer; I quickly check it and sometimes had to write a reply message. Being me, a regular yes or no usually don’t suffice and I always proofread my emails, before sending it. This takes time and usually by the time I’m done I’m not in the mood to continue working with what I did before.
For messaging, I am usually contacted regarding questions. Some chats were short—only lasting seconds—whereas others where longer—an hour or two, usually with my girlfriend . I don’t blame my girlfriend though for messaging me, I blame myself for having the messaging on so that she could contact me, and that I did not have any status message saying I’m busy.
The conclusion: I lost in average 1.5 hours each day—where some days I lost 4 hours, where some I did only lost a couple of minutes. This was the actual time I lost due to doing other things, in addition to that time I lost momentum and had to rebuild it.
Okay, I loose efficiency when I have notifications and messaging on. How did I solve it?
We begin with the notifications on the phone. I have an Android phone, and there exists a great program called Llama (as the animal). With it you can enable/disable features on the phone depending on some events—in this case I used it when an calendar event begins and ends. I use Google Calendar and I have all my day planned in more or less detail—when I should study, eat, go to the store, play games, and so forth. Combining these two, when an Study or Work calendar event begins, it automatically disables Internet on my phone, meaning I can’t get any email notifications and people can’t contact me through g-talk. When the calender event finishes it turns on Internet again. Very convenient to use.
For programs on the computer, I disabled email notifications altogether. If I get them on my phone, that is enough. Then I made a script (found at the bottom of the page) that kills messaging programs and then starts them again. This has to be done manually, I thought of also using my Google Calendar here, but that would be too much of a hassle, and take too much time. Instead I press an icon, it runs a script and kills the programs, then I press another icon to run the same script but with other parameters to start the programs again. This script can also disable homepages, e.g. Facebook and Google Plus.
It took approximately three hours to implement this script; by the next day I had already regained that “lost” time.
In just those two days I noticed that I was much more concentrated on the work that I did, nothing ever distracted me. I don’t know if I can say that I worked twice as efficient because I did not measure it, but it at least felt that way.
For the others that want the script; I implemented it for Linux, and specifically for Gentoo. If you using another distribution you might need to change some things.
The progarm can only handle one user per system, since the programs are specified globally for all users and not locally for each users. I know how to change this and it will only take an hour or two, but I don’t need it so I won’t bother. If you feel that you need that functionality either you can email me that you would like me to implement it, or email a patch to change how the script works
You can checkout the script using svn and this address: svn://senth.org/senth/mini-projects/toggle-work-mode/tags/v0.2
Here are the
four five script files (all have the same name, but are located in different places),
If you want to use the program (scripts) I suggest downloading them using svn.
Click to see the source code…