In my last blog I talked about how constant distraction is the new normal, examined different situations and explained how we have created a structure as a team to handle them. If you haven’t read it yet I suggest you do it as the following thoughts are based on it.
In this blog I will focus on the other leg of the monster – ourselves (and our technology).
It’s not just others that break our flow – but instead we usually do it ourselves. How do we do that?
Notifications, notifications, notifications
Beep. An email has just arrived. Beep. A new message on Facebook. Oh there’s one on WhatsApp as well. Beep. A news site sending a push notification about something that happened in the other side of the world.
Really, when is the last time you were part of a group and there was no beeping or distracting notifications for more than 10 minutes?
Right. So we are back to the interrupted-trying-to-concentrate-loop =\
When you are entering your thinking slow zone, all notifications should be off. All. Really.
But… what if there’s an emergency or something? (Like a whatsapp message remaining unanswered for more than 10 minutes).
A good solution that will make your mind feel more at ease, is to set custom notification preferences on your phone and pc, and allow calls (and maybe some other notifications if its important for you) only from specific people to go through.
Another good hack is allowing your phone to ring only if someone calls you twice/three times in a 15-minute period.
Finally, and very importantly is make arrangements with your team. Something that we are currently working on is having a person or two who are always in fast thinking mode, and having our work calls redirected to them (in most cases they will be able to handle and help).
The Even Darker side of notifications
We all know that our brains have evolved from monkeys. A lot of the mechansisms that were meant to help our ancenstors survive in the jungle are obsolete today. Unfortunately they are also responsible for the hijacking of our brains today.
Tim Urban has wrote an amazing blog called Why procrastinators procrastinate – and its highly recommended if you want to get your feet wet with the concept.
So we often speak about how technology has hijacked our brains and push notifications are right at the center of this.
In my previous blog I explained how at work we are stuck like mice on a wheel os in the “trying to concentrate state” which is the most unproductive and unpleasant state to be.
Until now I have been focusing on the unproductive but the unpleasant part is probably even more important.
Contant notifications keep us in a constant unpleasant loop and each interruption makes us a tiny bit more unhappy and depressed.
This is a really big topic and I am in no way qualified to write anything meaningful about it. But I strongly suggest that you catch up on the research presented in The Happiness advantage
Notifications are also addictive – They provide us with infrequent large rewards; Once in a while, we receive an important notification that leads to a major emotional trigger, and that gets us hooked similarly to gambling.
Again, a really big topic, and I suggest you watch the Ted talk of Tristan Harris about it and more importantly how we can use technology in a better way. Or you can listen to his podcast with Sam Harris if you really want to understand the topic better
So this takes the discussion from a simple blog about productivity and team culture, to a discussion about technology hijacking our brain, preventing hapinness and driving us to spent our time in a way we are not happy with.
I won’t go any deeper in this blog entry, but if you have been courageous enough to go through the resources, we can talk more about them over drinks 🙂
Back to our main topic now.
Another way we constantly torture ourselves is by constantly throwing stuff to our brain to remember. That really doesn’t work.
Lots of studies have been made on this topic and if you try to remember too many things in your head , your performance, mood and happiness level all drop.
What’s the alternative? Write everything down, and manage your time accordingly so that you ll have a stretch of time that will be long enough to do what’s important and urgent.
This has 2 steps, so let me repeat them:
- Write everything down (we do that in Asana)
- Have a time every day that you can tackle everything that’s important and urgent
Both steps are extremely important. #1 is kinda obvious. By writing it down, you can now let it go from your brain and “free up resources”(not a great analogy)
But you can only “let go” if based on past experience you know that you will have time later (and before its too late) to tackle the topics that need to be tackled.
If you are not absolutely sure about that, then you`ll keep bouncing that thing in your head, and you won’t be able to let go.
Which lead us to the third thing that’s necessary before entering slow thinking
Have a time for planning a preparation
This should happen at least once a day, and probably more often than that.
The process we follow is that every day, when we start working we look at all the open things we have to do and prioritize them.
That means that we move some stuff back to a later date, and other stuff to today because their status has suddenly changed. Out of that, we select up to 3 which are the most important ones and we write them in a specific group in slack.
We do that because:
- It helps us prioritize what are the truly important things that we need to do today and avoid wasting time and energy by feeling bad on less important things
- By writing them down we become more committed to them and thus less likely to fall down a rabbit hole on something that’s not important
- The whole team knows the important things we are working on and can adjust their own plans accordingly or jump in and let us know if they believe we should be focusing on something different
Let’s wrap up
Surprise surprise. This turned out to be another long blog, and there is still a ton to talk about notifications, technology and time well spent
If you are building a great team, then you need to get great people working in an environment that helps them (even nudges them to) spend as much time in slow thinking mode – that’s where we all reach peak productivity and value created.
However, work and life in 2017 is full of distractions and this aint no easy task – in fact it’s a really hard one to get right both at a personal and a team level.
In this blog I have shared some of my personal thoughts and some of the practices we follow at Ideas2life. Of course, everything is a work in progress, and hopefully I will soon be updating this blog based on your suggestions and new research findings