Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.
Several people I know use e-mail like it is instant messenger. They
keep it open all day and read every e-mail as it comes in. For me,
this is horrible for productivity. Constantly changing gears from
working on something to dealing with other things means I'm
unlikely to make any real progress on a project. So, I only check
e-mail a few times a day. People I work with know this so I've set
the expectation. With a follow-up point that if there is something
that needs to be dealt with urgently, they shouldn't e-mail me.
Shoot me an instant message or call me.
One of the key reasons I treat e-mail like this is that in order to
make progress on anything other than the smallest of projects, I
need blocks of uninterrupted time. There is a nice three part entry
over at 43 Folders that is right in
line with my thinking on this type of stuff. From the
“Making Time to Make” is a 3-part series about attention management
for people who do creative work. It’s designed to help you firewall
the time and attention you need to get out of the lite
communication business and into your studio.
For me, one long block of time is much better than two or more
smaller blocks even if they add up to the same (or possibly
greater) amount of time. The first part of the series has a quote
from Neal Stephenson who shares the idea:
Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time.
Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two
slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four
hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I
know that I am going to be interrupted, I can’t concentrate, and if
I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can’t do anything at all.
Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in
them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book
chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few
weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless.
My favorite quote comes from the second part. "Put plainer, my
sense is that western culture would be a damn sight poorer today if
John Lennon had been forced to carry a goddamn BlackBerry." If you
create things, it's well worth the read.
Making Time to Make - Part 1
Making Time to Make - Part 2
Making Time to Make - Part 3