I’ve been thinking about how to deal with the distractions technology allow us to have if we aren’t careful. The biggest one is obviously smartphones. Today I was listening to an interview with Elon Musk on Joe Rogan’s podcast and Musk said we’re already half-cyborgs, connected all the time to this super computer, the smartphone. It’s a great way to see it.
The problem is that in this super computer we have access to social media and news and all of the involved in them are fighting really hard for attention. Basically we live in a big “Look at me” culture, enabled by such powerful devices.
To be able to use my time meaningfully in the most optimal way I think we have to carefully design our environment so that we’re not drawn into these attention-seeking blackholes. Example: By turning notifications off we have more agency over how our time is spent on our phone. I’m not constantly reacting to other people, but I’m choosing when to become reactive. It’s a subtle change with big implications.
I’ve been successful in implementing some of these changes in the past. I’ve been generally good at allocating my time to meaningful things. Most of my time is spent working, sleeping, coding or socialising. If I remove basic survival activities like preparing food and commuting, I don’t spend a lot of time with distractions such as movies or just scrolling on my phone.
But the problem is even having my phone around allows me to take a quick look at it for whatever reason while I’m coding, which takes from the quality of my work. If I check my messages chances are I’ll be thinking about its contents even when I get back to coding. If it’s a bad message it might ruin my coding time altogether.
In the worst case scenario, checking my phone when I shouldn’t can be the lead domino to a series of things that will compound and culminate in a couple of ruined days. Recently it happened twice. Checking the news over the Beirut explosion and a horrible crime in Sydney, Australia made me lose at least four hours across a few days checking the follow-up stories to those stories.
I’m positive my success as a coder will be dramatically accelerated if I aggressively tackle distraction. For that I’ll set some boundaries and stick to them religiously. I’ll develop a list of “Commandments” for that. This is my first commandment:
- “THOU SHALL NOT “CHECK” ON YOUR PHONE” – Meaning no news, social media or e-mails in blocks of time dedicated to coding. Example: If on my calendar coding goes from 7am to 2pm all social media will be DELETE FROM MY PHONE and news websites BLOCKED FROM MY COMPUTER AND MY PHONE. No exceptions allowed. There’s nothing so urgent to be checked that can’t wait till 2pm.
- “THOU SHALL ONLY “CHECK” SOCIAL MEDIA DURING COMMUTE” – The exception is if I’m riding my bike to or from work. Then I’ll allow myself to be on social media and news when I arrive on my destination. But at work it’s gone again. I might elect small chunks of time for batching social media as I need it for work but then it’s gone. It HAS TO GO.
I think there’s a lot of value in posting here daily. Not only for the future document this will become but also as an instrument for developing discipline. So I’ll try really hard to make it happen.