The tyrany of immediacy (homestuff)

Today has been my second day in a row of working ”offline”. I am going through a bottleneck of work and I really, really need to focus. I read somewhere that Hadley Wickham did something along these lines (allocating certain times of the day to doing certain this -he has an app that delivers his email twice a day, he does not check social network when he wakess up, etc.  I thought that this could be a good opportunity to start this type of routine. I have thus tried to establish some simple rules to implement an efficient work routine:

  1. Start working at 8 am.
  2. Stop working at 11pm, no matter what.
  3. Checking my email and my phone at most twice in the day, and not answering anything until the end of the day unless it is urgent.
  4. Work with the ”Self-control’ app (which disables many websites, such a twitter, facebook or the several blogs I read) on until I stop working.
  5. Make breaks every 2 hours at most and walk around my house or stretch a bit.
  6. Whenever I have to ‘look for something’ in the internet (‘let’s see what data I can find for this project’), allocate some reasonable amount of time in advance and then stop no matter what.
  7. Whenever I am working and something comes to my mind, write it down in a piece of paper and keep doing what I was working in.
  8. Keep my computer off whenever it is not necessary (when reading, for example).

The result has so far been great. Not only have I been much more productive, I also feel much less stressed, in spite of the huge amount of work I still have left. It’s just common sense: more work means more stress, more productivity means being able to achieve given the the same time-budget, so less stress.

It’s hard to believe this can work, but if you think about it as a challenge, just as people say ‘I have quitted smoking’ or ‘I have been sober for X days’, then it works pretty well.

But what I wanted to talk today is about the standard idea that one is expected to be on call 24/7. Of course, it’s written nowhere, but over my whole day, there is a large number of reasons why I can get distracted: a lot of mentions on facebook, twitter, emails that arrive, slack messages, etc. Given that I work with my laptop most of the time, there is a . If I answer them all, then I probably well get even more answers, and so on. This is extremely disrupting, not just in terms of time, but also mentally. I also think that if you answer instantaneously, you feed the expectation that you will answer fast.

It’s not the first time I have the thought that this IT revolution has had mixed benefits. Yes, it is easy to coauthor papers with people located remotely and be in a distance relationship, but at the same time, it obstructs with your life. I sometimes miss the time in which people met at a precise place and fixed time one or two days in advance, instead of assuming that one must reconfirm that same morning and call to tell where one is waiting. Or, I miss when people asked for appointments one week in advance instead of bugging you through facebook- I had this conversation with my girlfriend yesterday: I really do not consider facebook a proper way of contacting someone professionally. I do many of these things myself, but very few of these things are urgent.

Just as I issued the commitment sometime ago to ”write more often” (of which this post is a by-product), I commit here to emancipate myself from the tyranny of immediacy . 




The tyrany of immediacy (homestuff)

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