Disconnecting to Keep Distraction Away

I’m back from AYE. The last session I attended was Dwayne Phillips‘s on “Distraction”. Distraction is a recurring enemy here, always ready to strike, to divert me from the task at hand. I’ve recently been using “disconnection” to fight distraction and focus on an intense task for a few hours, and noticed the same notion on the 37 Signals’ blog, a post by Matt entitled “Get Off”.

There is an ongoing flow of incoming data in our online lives. Hundreds of emails per day. Hundreds of RSS feed items. Dozens of IM contacts. Phone calls. Voice mail. The “water cooler”, physical or virtual. The disconnection idea is simple: Go offline, physically and network-wise. Leave your office and go somewhere away from your normal environment, away from email, RSS, instant messaging, the web, etc. Reduce your inputs, to make room for more output.

My implementation is to go to restaurant or cafe, in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon (out of politeness, to avoid disrupting their business by using up a table during peak times); preferable one without “WiFi” to remove that temptation. Then I sit, sip, and Just Work on something important. I write code; I write text; I review documents; I brainstorm. I use my notebook PC with a 12” screen, a stark contrast to my 2560×1024 resolution desktop configuration. The latter is wonderful for many kinds of work; but it is also more distraction-prone.

If you find yourself struggling to task on large important tasks, instead distracted by a thousand smaller things, give disconnection a try.