Monday, May 26, 2008

Paul Graham on avoiding distractions

Paul Graham gave me a light bulb moment a couple years ago with his essay on Good and Bad Procrastination. A main point of the essay is there are always millions of things we could be doing, so the real trick is not to avoid doing things, but to be wise in picking what we choose to do.

Paul follows up on this theme with Disconnecting Distraction. He explains that with easy access to the internet we can often be distracted from doing real work:

TV is in decline now, but only because people have found even more addictive ways of wasting time. And what's especially dangerous is that many happen at your computer. This is no accident. An ever larger percentage of office workers sit in front of computers connected to the Internet, and distractions always evolve toward the procrastinators.
I remember when computers were, for me at least, exclusively for work. I might occasionally dial up a server to get mail or ftp files, but most of the time I was offline. All I could do was write and program. Now I feel as if someone snuck a television onto my desk. Terribly addictive things are just a click away. Run into an obstacle in what you're working on? Hmm, I wonder what's new online. Better check.
After years of carefully avoiding classic time sinks like TV, games, and Usenet, I still managed to fall prey to distraction, because I didn't realize that it evolves. Something that used to be safe, using the Internet, gradually became more and more dangerous. Some days I'd wake up, get a cup of tea and check the news, then check email, then check the news again, then answer a few emails, then suddenly notice it was almost lunchtime and I hadn't gotten any real work done. And this started to happen more and more often.

He continues by writing how the internet makes it easy for us to be distracted from the real work that we are trying to do.

This can happen with blogging. Blogging is addictive. I find myself often looking for one more thing to post about. This distraction from important work may be part of the reason people like Spunky and Izzy gave up on blogging, or at least take a break.

I don't think I'm there, yet. But Paul's essay does give me food for thought.

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1 comment:

Fatcat said...

Distractions are really difficult for me, since I work at home and my production is totally up to me. I've been using this web site to track my online time and cut back.