I do double duty writing – software and fiction. Some days I find myself more productive than others and it’s usually due to one thing – my internet connection. It’s not what you think, actually. Most of the time when my connection is good and I have several tabs open in my browser, my productivity sucks. I keep waiting for something interesting to happen: an email from a colleague or friend, a good post on one of the blogs I follow, a good link posted on facebook, etc.
It’s too easy to while away a spare hour with this crap (let’s face it, it’s not a productive use of time.) I find myself most effective when I shut down my browser. That way, I can’t even notice that a new email has arrived (it’s probably just spam anyway). No matter what work I’m doing, if I don’t need the internet to do it, I’m probably more productive not even being distracted by it.
A while ago, I had a discussion on the Comments section of Coding Horror about email. The issue was about whether to send and read emails versus calling, and this leaked into the issue of checking email all the time. The person on the other end of the discussion said he wasn’t distracted by looking at his email because Outlook pops up a little message in the corner of his screen when a new email arrives. The problem with that is that it still interrupts your flow and writing anything is all about getting into flow. It takes time to get your brain fully focused on an activity and any interruption, however slight, can keep you from operating at optimal capacity.
If you think you’re operating at full capacity, try shutting down your browser for a while and working and see if you get more done. If you don’t think you’re focused enough, do the same thing. I’ll be your productivity improves.