this post covers concentration + focus, how little of these two I have on certain days, and how much I covet them
To get into a good work flow on Victus Media at night or on days off I need to find at least 4-5 hour blocks without distractions. Spending quality time with Michelle trumps everything else at minimum a few times a week. Two incredible munchkin dogs haven't aided the concentration quest either*. Paul Graham captures the work flow dilemma and the body of time needed to get anything useful done when programming. If you are a founder or early employee of any energized workplace doing creative design or technical work, than you can relate to these time blocks for productivity. I'm confident that many of us suffer the extended 15+ hour days as a result of not finding enough 4-5 hour productive blocks. Distractions throughout an 8-9 hour day yield severely limited productivity.
In my case part of the contiguous greedy time need has to do with "loading & holding" a block of code in mind while working on it. I can't help but bump into boundaries when I actively work on two big projects at my day job, and tinker/hack on startup stuff at night (luckily that's the exception). When I don't have it in me, I've learned it's better to skip a day^. Fortunately on most days I've got plenty of enthusiasm+energy and my startup-centric efforts are well rewarded.
My friend Charlie Crystal is beta testing a monitoring and blocking tool to help, but I'm a bit of a control freak and prefer managing my own time. Here's a hit list of distractions you have to look out for:
- Email is the worst:. If you use it like I do it is the end of the funnel for all your social web activities, sites, feedback, etc. Close down that mail client and build/learn
- social web sites: just ignore Facebook if you have work to do. At least twitter & HackerNews will net you some interesting news, but again it's better to close down if you need to focus
- cell phone bad: move your cell phone/smart phone out of reach. If it shakes, squirms or beeps just ignore it (check for an emergency first)
- the yes man never get's anything done: other free lance type work. If you are able to do technical work and are social, you'll bump into lots of brilliant folks that can use your assistance. Better to politely decline, and double down on your main project than water down your effort with side projects. I am guilty of this one far too often and have recently made efforts to focus more on a single project
- Tools are like mind candy to a creative / technical person: You can find 85 awesome tools in the time it takes to get a little work done. Before developing it's always a good idea to see what's already been done in the open source area. But after you've selected a tool/language/library, it's easy to get side tracked by adjacent utilities, just focus. "rubyjs is so pretty..."
* Back before I started down the road of a web business, even blogging was a challenge with the little yelps of Victus and Waffles
^ After a number of catastrophic examples of failed thinking costing many late night hours