The recent Onion article on the death of Steve Jobs really struck a chord with me:
Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas
If you really think about, that's a superhero power – the ability to sit down, think clearly and execute. I've always known that I have trouble finishing things. For as long as I can remember, I've always been a starter. I love the rush of embarking on a new project. The initial brainstorming and roughing out the first prototypes really give me a high. Unfortunately, after that I just fizzle out. The actual process of moving things from prototype to real world product always seems to bore me. Somewhere along the way, I generally lose interest and shelve things. As a result, I now have around 10,327 half-finished things.
Reading that piece on The Onion, however, made me take a good hard look at myself and I decided to make a few changes. One of the things I quickly noticed during my introspection was that I'm distracted very easily. Whether I'm writing code, watching television, reading a book or even trying to fall asleep, my mind is always buzzing with a million different thoughts. I'm not quite sure when that started happening, but now I find that it takes a serious effort for me to focus on a single train of thought for an extended period of time.
There are just too many distractions. Too many devices crying for attention. Too many emails to process. Too many blogs to read. And the worst thing is that the default on every device or app is to let you know instantly when something happens. The list is just endless:
- Hacker News
- etc., etc., etc.
This stuff is Kryptonite.
So, as the first step to regaining my superpowers, I've now decided to turn off every notification on every device or app that I own. That's right, everything. Hell, even my phone now makes noises only for incoming calls. No more "you've got mail", twitter alerts, Facebook messages or blog alerts to get in my way. Zero alerts. Period. No exceptions. Nada. Not on the phone, laptop or desktop.
And you know what? The world suddenly seems like a more peaceful place. It's only been two days since I started doing this and already I can feel my thought process improving. Not only am I getting more work done, but I'm doing a better job at it than before.
Try it, people. Turn off the notifications. There's important stuff to be done. Don't let a new tweet or email take your eyes off the ball.