Why Pings, Pangs, Buzzes and Alerts Are a Productivity Wasteland

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I have lived the ritual.  I have seen the ritual a thousand times.  The day goes like this… You get to the workspace and turn on the computer; it pings to attention.  You sit down, enter your password, and it pangs with approval.

You go to the kitchen, grab your coffee out of the Keurig K Cup machine when it buzzes, and then sit down.  But before you get into the details of the spreadsheets, your phone vibrates with a text from your mom that you need to read.  Also, you need to check Facebook. Wow, there is a new “10 Celebrity Facts You Need to Know.” Ugh, too hard to navigate.  Back to FB, never mind, always the same people. Let’s see what’s going on with my Twitter feed. Then, a glance at CNN.com to see what new in the world.  You look up and it’s after 10 a.m.  Time for another coffee.

It is impossible to go through a day without dealing with hundreds of distractions that kill productivity.

We seek connectivity; we are frustrated when it is not available but it can be the productivity wasteland. Connectivity is the problem. When one is connected, the constant pinging of emails and notifications and texts are like mosquitoes buzzing around the bedroom – you have to deal with them.  Those enticing tidbits we receive every day are just too damn interesting to ignore. The constant “urgent updates” about NBA coaches getting into fisticuffs or “Why Elephants Rarely Get Cancer” are just as addictive as crack cocaine. And opening one of those tidbits is like pulling on a string of a sweater — it may never end. The fighting NBA coaches will lead to athletes in jail which will lead to your alma mater website, which will lead to your old friends, which will lead you to a cat playing the piano and so on and so forth.

STOP.  All the emails and requests and pings from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other addictions that require immediate attention can wait. The Nigerian Prince who needs a bank account number who is always with us.  It never ends.

The best productivity hack is to disconnect. I know it seems impossible, but for an hour during the day disconnect to get real work done.

I have a writer friend who gets up each day and locks himself in a dark closet with no Internet connection. He takes his laptop in there with him but does not ever connect. His job is to write. He stays in the closet until he has written one thousand words.

Think about how productive some airplane trips have been for you.  Web access is spotty, if available at all, so we can put on noise-canceling earphones and work on the project, the book, the plan, the spreadsheet or so many of the important activities that are usually interrupted but require focus and concentration.  Although counter-intuitive, airplane time can be productive because of the disconnection.

There are no tricks to being disconnected other than disconnecting.

No matter the job, at the end of the year we are measured in production.   You need to know how production is defined. Is it in dollars? Clients? Saves? Points? Customer service? Widgets made? Hours?  The list of productivity measures is almost infinite. I doubt that knowing about Kim Kardashian is one of those measures. Disconnect to be more productive.

I don’t know any one who has made a major scientific discovery between the constant pinging of emails. I don’t know of anyone who has written a great book while the Twitter feed is clinking along. I don’t know of anyone who is not distracted by the buzz of a text. For me, I know that productivity is connected to being disconnected.

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