Flow, Logarithmic Time, Managed Interruptions, & Procrastination
Conversely, forcing someone to perform errands synchronously is bound to limit their productivity. The cost of an interruption is not just the time it takes, but that it breaks the time on either side in half. You probably only have to interrupt someone a couple times a day before they’re unable to work on hard problems at all.
In musing about procrastination, Paul simultaneously merges a key concept in computer science with everyday life. By considering time simply as a sorted list, we can quickly find any time slot. We can also just as quickly spend so much time multi-tasking that we get nothing done. For instance, being randomly interrupted three times per 8-hour workday guarantees us no more than an hour of uninterrupted thought, or flow. Four times – 30 minutes, five times – 15 minutes, and so forth; soon nothing gets done.
So turn off those social media, email, and RSS feeds. Unplug, get something done. Try a simple timer from Online Stopwatch, Pomodoro, timeboxing, or time dash. These, and other methods for mastering your calendar, can be very effective ways of managing “logarithmic time”. Put on some music, and get that to-do list complete, write that paper, finish that post!
Better yet, work on not interrupting others – sure, an immediate call or text is needed sometimes – but not all the time. Think twice before interrupting the folks on your team – do they need to handle the fire right now or is it more critical they finish that task on a strategic project? Time is our most non-renewable resource – how will you manage yours?
Note: To explore the lambda calculus concept of a certain type of fixed point combinator that inspired Paul Graham’s name for the Y Combinator startup fund, see here. Companies funded by Y Combinator include reddit and Dropbox, among others. I may follow-up on this post some time down the road – there’s probably some deep thoughts on merging Paul Graham’s inspirational idea with how we manage our calendars &/or how we construct knowledge discovery apps – but alas, my timebox has elapsed.