Finding Focus in the Age of Interruption – Part 2

In the first post of this series we discussed the pitfalls of living during this amazing era of technology revolution. In addition to tremendous benefits, this revolution has brought with it endless interruptions. Notifications are inundating us with distraction. Pop-ups from social media, new emails and game-mechanic driven apps are ever present. Add to that the fact that we now have a lot of new ways to procrastinate thanks to the ever-expanding internet that is within arm’s reach.
About 8 months ago I made the decision to delete my work email from my phone and tablet. I had realized something about my morning routine: I would wake up and grab my phone, scan through my Twitter feed, and peruse the emails that had arrived over the past 8 hours. Then I would stumble through the rest of my morning. On my drive to the office I was checking my email at every red light. I would then spend the most productive time, when I got to the office, checking the same inbox fearing that I would miss that important incoming email.
I had convinced myself that these notifications were important and that it was critical to check them right away. Yet the process of checking Twitter and my inbox usually would take about two to three hours out of my morning and more often than I would like to admit it lead into mindless surfing.
Once I took a moment to think about it, I realized that this was not how I wanted to spend the first hours of my work day. The best, most productive hours of my work day.
Therefore, I changed my morning habits. I made a commitment to myself that during my morning routine and what I considered my most productive time I would distance myself from the distractions that had taken over my morning. For the first several days, my new routine was like starting a new workout. It was something I hated and I often found myself grabbing my phone, fighting my way through distraction withdrawal. I wanted to check my inbox and twitter feed just in case something important was happening.
Looking back, the decision to change my morning routine and work in a distraction-free environment has been the best professional and personal choice I have made during this time.  Recently I noticed something that I hadn’t experienced before, I started my new morning routine and arrived at the office and fell right into doing some very meaningful deep work work, without the morning distractions, for a client.  As I wrapped up my work I glanced at the time and realized a sense of accomplishment as I had completed a massive amount in a very short time that in the past would have taken a much larger amount of time.
Also 4 months ago my wife and I received the amazing news that we are expecting twins, and they will be joining us in about 5 weeks.  With these small changes that I am incorporating into my daily routine I know that I am going to be able to be more present in those exciting moments that are coming.
I recently started reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown and discovered a few quotes that I thought perfectly fit our topic:
“Today, everyone waiting around in an airport or a waiting room is glued to their technology tools of choice. Of course, nobody likes to be bored. But by abolishing any chance of being bored we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process.”
“The faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.”
I will leave you with another quote that I believed summed up where I was 8 months ago:
“Many capable people are kept from getting to the next level of contribution because they can’t let go of the belief that everything is important.”
What’s important to you?