I feel this point comes in everyone’s life some time or another…
I’ve found myself becoming increasingly aware of how much time I spend on my social media accounts.
If I were to think through my day and try to guesstimate how much time I spend on Facebook/Twitter, it would look something like this:
Morning phone alarm gets turned off, switch to Facebook, check email: 15 minutes; this usually leads over to the bathroom
Bathroom: ~5 minutes
“Quick-check” during compiling or other “sit and wait” tasks: about 5-10 minutes throughout the day.
Break at the end of contract hours: 15 minutes
“Quick-check” during personal project “sit and wait” tasks: ~5 minutes
Brushing teeth: 1 minute
In bed: 10-15 minutes (if I don’t decide to read a book instead)
That’s about an hour a day!
While this appears diminutive compared to what various studies are reporting (anywhere from 1.5 – 3 hours a day depending on the reporting source), it’s still an hour a day that’s not just a distraction, it’s likely a detriment to my forward progress.
What I mean by that is that the quick-check distraction not only derails my train of thought, but it prevents me from successfully digesting the complex systems required to quickly get up to speed on new contracts. In my current line of work, I’ve seldom been tasked with creating original code bases; I’m usually working in ones that already exist. I can’t speak for others, but sifting through existing code is usually difficult for me. Game code tennnnnndddds to lean towards the messy side, without much planning or architecture. We programmers have all seen that one monolithic class, I know it. Learning that code base quickly can be a daunting task without real concentration involved.
You’ve (hopefully) come across the various findings that for deep-thinking work like programming or creative content creation, a distraction creates a bigger time sink than the actual distraction itself. I’m sure we’re all familiar with a concept called “flow”. It’s that state of mind where seemingly the planets align and stardust just rams itself into your brain, making that pause button’s click handler be the work of the cosmos itself. It’s actually really pleasurable to be in this state of mind too, those who have experienced it know exactly what I’m talking about. A zen-like state where only you, your thoughts, and your code exist in the universe. Dramatic? Yes!
Then one of your coworkers in your open office environment blurts out something about pizza bagels and… BOOM… you forget the four or five things you had in your short term memory needed to accomplish your task successfully. You also have the pizza bagels jingle stuck in your head now.
Pardon my French, but come le fuck on!
You can probably “”re-rail” your train of thought, but now you need another 15-30 minutes to get back into that flow state (again, depending on the study you cite). Just think of how easy it is to open Facebook or check the front page of reddit. Just think of how easy it is to share some of that click-bait content among your co-workers and get them out of their flow states. I’d consider this a time-sink epidemic for the sake of not being bored. Anyways… slash rant.
I’m targeting social media first because it seems like the easiest distraction to deal with outright. I don’t seem to get the value that I want out of checking it. Seeing my friends’ (both online and real life) accomplishments are really cool, but a picture of what you’re eating for dinner tonight doesn’t add a lot of value to my life. Your food is getting uneaten and I’m sitting here getting hungry looking at it!
It’s also incredibly easy to check. It’s literally three thumb movements from anywhere on my iPhone… Hit the home button twice, then tap on the Facebook or Twitter app. When this becomes second nature to perform, you can mindlessly wander into distraction-land (Note to self: theme park name) at any time.
So, here’s the rules for what I’m going to try; a month long social-media fast!
- No Facebook or Twitter on phone or web. Cold Turkey!
- Turn off all notifications from these sites. No emails, beeps, dings, or blips. (or boops)
- Start date: May 30, end date: June 30
- Texts, email, skype, and phone calls are fine
- Keep notes on this blog about any noticeable changes or effects
Has anyone else tried this to great effect? Any effect? I’d like to know more. Let me know in the comments! I’m really excited to see the positive effects of this fast.