I almost titled this “Get Things Done” but this post is not about how to do things. This post is about minimizing waste associated with distractions from non work related activities. I’m talking about things like Instant Messenger, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, personal phone calls, texting or anything else that is a distraction.
Some of the online tools can be used for work related activities (and I do used them), but they can also be major productivity killers. I bet that 90% of what happens on these things is noise. I don’t have any statistics to back that up, but from my own experiences, what happens on there is mostly waste. For myself, I have enough work related distractions without piling on extras. You don’t notice how much time you actually waste until you get so busy that any unnecessary distraction becomes a painful thing.
If you’ve had the opportunity to do some real pair programming, then you can appreciate minimizing distractions. One of the reason pair programming works, is that it keeps both parties engaged in the work. Even a simple phone call or text message to either party is a distraction. It actually even feels rude. After a good day of pairing, you feel exhausted because you put in a real day’s work. You were engaged the entire time. Why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standards when we are programming solo?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take breaks and have our minds think about other things once in awhile. The fact is that we’re going to have non worked related distractions. The real point of this post is to remind everyone that in economic times like these, we cannot afford to waste the time we have now. If a company of 100 people waste 20 minutes a day on non worked related activities, then that is over a man week that has been wasted within that day. Wasted, gone, vanished, can’t get it back. The time you waste today, may mean someone’s job tomorrow (if not your own).