Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I was doing the standard morning commute, listening to Stever Robbins talk about being disconnected (transcript here) when something he said brought me to full attention.
Stever said that being connected all the time had made him sloppy.
I began to wonder if it was making me sloppy, too.
Stever maintains that before technology, he was better at prioritizing, better and knowing what information he needed and how to use it, and better able to find logic flaws.
By having limited capacity in his backpack, he was forced to think about what he would work on before he left home.
By knowing what he needed to work on, he was able to find and bring the relevant reference material.
By writing on paper, he was able to do a rough draft of both code and prose and find logic errors when he transcribed it.
The Case for Disconnected
Let me just say up front that as a programmer, I would never code on paper.
However…I can see Stever’s point with outlining on paper, be it either coding or writing. When I have limited time to code (i.e. for my own personal use), I always sketch out how I am going to do it so I can see the ebb and flow of the program. I find that I can code faster, and find roadblocks in my process faster. (Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to do this at work and end up relying on the compiler and testers to find my errors…)
I also find that I write better when working from an outline, so that is always a step in producing blog posts.
Before I had a smart phone, and being unwilling to drag my laptop places unless I absolutely had to use it, I was more organized to get tasks done. I had my notes, I had supporting materials, I had everything I needed to get the task done. Why? Because several times I was caught without necessary materials and ended up not accomplishing what I needed to. This dates all the way back to college, where I remember on more than one occasion not having the textbook or notes to be able to do my homework.
I can also see the case for only bringing limited amounts of material with you. One of my really bad habits is that I carry stuff I don’t need everywhere. I bring everything I would need to work on all sorts of things, ignoring the fact that I can’t get them all done. With so many choices, it is hard to decide what to work on, and often I don’t get things done. Any of them.
The Case for Connected
On the other hand, I can see that being connected is a good thing. For instance, when I was writing this post, in a local Starbucks, on my iPad, I went out to the podcast transcription to check my memory on the items Stever had mentioned. Without it, I would have had to put off writing the post until I was connected.
I also rely heavily on my iPhone as a capture device. If I am driving and I think of something I need to do, I press the Belkin button and tell Siri to make a reminder. If I need to look up a phone number or address for one of the moms at the bus stop, I have that capability to send the information right then. In other words, being connected has eased the stress of trying to remember to do things.
Does Being Connected Make You Sloppy?
When I examine Stever’s points, and look at my own behavior, I can see that yes, I have gotten sloppy with being connected.
I bring too much with me, both physically and information wise. This leaves me hauling equipment around I don’t use, and gives me an all too easy excuse to get sidetracked.
I have too much information at my disposal, and rather than using the quality information I find, I keep looking for more information, which often muddies the waters.
I am more apt to go down rabbit trails.
And my writing is less coherent when I try to write straight off the cuff.
So yes, I think being connected has made me sloppy.
The Case for Applying Disconnected to Connected
I think the solution here, though, lies not in going completely disconnected, but in applying the disconnected principles to my tasks.
- I decide what needs to be done and focus on those tasks only.
- I do not multitask.
- I only bring the minimum of physical stuff that I need to complete those tasks with me.
- I stop looking for all the information possible and choose high-quality and reliable sources.
- I take the time to think things through before starting work.
So what do you think? Is Stever right? Or is he completely and totally wrong? Share below.
Photo by Insomnia PHT. Licensed under Creative Commons.