Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Distractions

'Information Overload' photo (c) 2007, David Joyce - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Of late, I’ve been thinking through ways to eliminate some of the many distractions in my life. As some of you may know, my right hand man, Isaiah, has just left for a bigger and better position at another church. For various reasons I won’t go into here (at least not now), I’m not able to replace him for the time being. That means I need to find ways to effectively do two jobs, which means my efficiency needs to go up. Way up.

Now, I could just knuckle down and work more hours, but we all know that’s not sustainable over the long term. While I could 60-80 hours a week for a month or two, after that time I’ll be ready to throw in the towel. 

Instead, I’m looking for ways to focus more energy on getting things done, and wasting less energy on distractions—those things that keep me from getting things done.

As I’ve been pondering this, I’ve been reading The Next Story: Live and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies. In one chapter, he talks about research being done by Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hallowell is a noted expert on ADHD, a syndrome you’re likely familiar with. He has also coined another three-letter-acronym; ADT, Attention Deficit Trait. ADT is a byproduct of the digital age. Basically, ADT is a manifestation of our desire to surround ourselves with more and more information.

Those suffering from ADT will find themselves to be distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and underachieving. Their reservoir of new ideas runs dry. They are working longer, but getting less done. People with ADT no longer have time, or even the desire, to build relationships. 

As I read this description, I realized it describes a lot of people I know; and to some extent, me. I’ll go out to lunch with a friend, and spend part of that time checking my e-mail or twitter stream. I’ll impulsively check my mail client on my laptop while working on a proposal, just to see if any new information has come in. 

The other night, as I was getting ready to go bed, and saw a badge with a 3 on it hovering over the mail icon on my iPhone. I just had to check it, and found an e-mail that was mildly upsetting, upsetting enough that I lay awake for 3 hours thinking about it instead of going to sleep.

Reading further into the chapter, I learned that this constant state of information overload that we find ourselves in is quite harmful over the long term. We are actually training our brains to be incapable of thinking on any given subject for more than a few minutes at a time. We bounce from thought to thought long before we’ve actually figured something out. As a result we are working longer hours, becoming increasingly busy and decreasingly productive.

Undoing this is going to take some time, but I’ve decided to start taking some steps now to reverse the process, and hopefully make me more productive. And as a positive byproduct, I hope to be less irritable, distracted and frustrated.

The first step, which I actually did a long time ago, was to turn off all the incoming mail sounds on my phone and laptop. That constant string of “bings” kept calling me to leave whatever I was doing to see what just came in. The next step for me is to turn off push mail on my iPhone and iPad and turn off the unread mail count badge in Mail. The new mail badge is like a beacon, calling me away from whatever I’m doing to see who needs my attention NOW.

As an aside, I’ve come to realize that most e-mail is junk. Seriously. I was out of the office for a week , and I didn’t check my e-mail at all. When I got back, I had 147 unread e-mails. A grand total of 4 of them required action from me. The rest were quickly scanned and deleted. Not one of them was worth breaking my attention from any task at hand.

I’m also setting up as many filters as I can in Gmail and Mail to eliminate much of my incoming e-mail. Nearly every sales pitch and unnecessary e-mail gets sent to the trash before I ever see it. I’ve turned off notifications in Twitter (and even took the radical step of turning off all notifications on my iPhone). 

The final step, which I will probably implement this week is to not keep Mail running all day long. My hope is that by keeping the application closed, I will be far less tempted to just “pop over” to see what’s come in, which breaks my concentration and takes me out of what I’m doing. 

The bottom line, at least for me, is that I need to be able to dig into my task list, get stuff done and not be distracted by the constant stream of noise floating by. My hope is that over the long term, I will filter out that noise and get back to the point where I can concentrate on things for extended periods of time, get them solved or done and still have energy to spend quality time with the people I love. If all goes well, not only will I be able to survive this season, I’ll be more productive, and happier.

What’s your story? How do you deal with the constant bombardment of distractions in your life?

Today’s post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA’s range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA’s miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

18 Comments

  1. chris@behindthemixer.com

    A method that works to keep me focused is writing down my three goals for the day. Then, I spend more time focusing on reaching those goals and less on the random i-net reading.

  2. chris@behindthemixer.com

    A method that works to keep me focused is writing down my three goals for the day. Then, I spend more time focusing on reaching those goals and less on the random i-net reading.

  3. douglash@gmail.com

    Crap, and here I am reading your blog post, when I SHOULD be working. Arg! It's a self fulfilling blog post.

    That's it, I'm closing Tweetdeck. πŸ™‚

  4. douglash@gmail.com

    Crap, and here I am reading your blog post, when I SHOULD be working. Arg! It's a self fulfilling blog post.

    That's it, I'm closing Tweetdeck. πŸ™‚

  5. jaredjontaylor

    Great post, Mike! This is so important, especially for those of us whose job it is to steward technology in the church. We did a recent series on this topic called 'Rage Against the Machine' and we had a chance to interview Tim Challies (he lives right near our church up here in Canada-land). http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/rage-against-machine-technology/id215990014?i=95071205

  6. jonlillie@gmail.com

    excellent post Mike. We have our laptops, smart phones and IPads. when does the overload end. I've started close mail and turning off notifications on my days off. That way my day of rest is actually a day of rest. But after reading your post, I'm thinking I might turn off growl on my laptop.

    As for you doing two jobs, I'm just down the street, if you need help let me know. If there is nothing going on at compass I will gladly help.

  7. jonlillie@gmail.com

    excellent post Mike. We have our laptops, smart phones and IPads. when does the overload end. I've started close mail and turning off notifications on my days off. That way my day of rest is actually a day of rest. But after reading your post, I'm thinking I might turn off growl on my laptop.

    As for you doing two jobs, I'm just down the street, if you need help let me know. If there is nothing going on at compass I will gladly help.

  8. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Thanks, Jon. I just may take you up on that!
    mike

  9. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Thanks, Jon. I just may take you up on that!
    mike

  10. nick@oldbranch.com

    Great post. You're right. Turn these things into tools again, not shackles.

    As for you needing to do two jobs, that stinks. But, sometimes you need to give people what they ask for (which sounds like one less person on the job). One person can only do one person's worth of work. The church can survive, and so can you – as long as you don't burn yourself out trying to do the impossible. Keep your head above the water!

  11. nick@oldbranch.com

    Great post. You're right. Turn these things into tools again, not shackles.

    As for you needing to do two jobs, that stinks. But, sometimes you need to give people what they ask for (which sounds like one less person on the job). One person can only do one person's worth of work. The church can survive, and so can you – as long as you don't burn yourself out trying to do the impossible. Keep your head above the water!

  12. yeshua11@me.com

    Another option to keep a lot of mail out of your inbox is have multiple mailboxes with rules set for individual people. I have about 5 people that I get a lot of emails from….almost daily….most are those "this is really good!" or "pass it on if you believe in God" kinda thing……By filtering them out, It lessens my inbox count (both the inbox and the unread mail icon) and then I just check those emails out about once a week….not every day….I also send audio news letters and other stuff into special folders just so they don't raise the count….

    Rules are really handy….makes life automatically organized to a extent….

  13. yeshua11@me.com

    Another option to keep a lot of mail out of your inbox is have multiple mailboxes with rules set for individual people. I have about 5 people that I get a lot of emails from….almost daily….most are those "this is really good!" or "pass it on if you believe in God" kinda thing……By filtering them out, It lessens my inbox count (both the inbox and the unread mail icon) and then I just check those emails out about once a week….not every day….I also send audio news letters and other stuff into special folders just so they don't raise the count….

    Rules are really handy….makes life automatically organized to a extent….

  14. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Josh,
    Oh yeah, I like filters! I actually route all my non-work email through Google and have about 20 or so rules set up. I've dropped from several hundred emails a day to fewer than 30. I keep those rules updated often.

    Now I need to set up rules in Mail to clean up my work (Exchange) account.

    mike

  15. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Josh,
    Oh yeah, I like filters! I actually route all my non-work email through Google and have about 20 or so rules set up. I've dropped from several hundred emails a day to fewer than 30. I keep those rules updated often.

    Now I need to set up rules in Mail to clean up my work (Exchange) account.

    mike

  16. Daniel

    Good stuff, Mike.

    I've recently been on a campaign to unsubscribe from every marketing email newsletter I get, and that's made a big difference in the amount of unnecessary email I receive.

    Another benefit of closing mail all day is that I don't let stuff pile up in there as much. When I open mail (well, login to gmail), I'm working on email and nothing else. I either respond or add an item to my to do list for every message then archive it. That's the theory anyway, and it works great when I stick to it.

  17. jliechty200@gmail.com

    My love for filtering mail as soon as it hits the server (thanks GMail!) cannot be overstated. That said, I need to have a marketing email unsubscription campaign a la Daniel. Even when the messages are filtered into the "Commercial" folder, I still feel compelled to read them sometime (like, several times per day). If I save $10 to $20 per year with deals from said emails, but waste countless hours in the process, have I gained anything?

    Recently, I've had a few RSS purging sessions. Being unable to go cold turkey off RSS, I've still gone over my RSS subscriptions a few times, asking questions such as "do I remember anything I read recently from this feed" and "would my life be affected in any meaningful way if I didn't know this information"? If it doesn't pass the test, it's gone.

  18. jliechty200@gmail.com

    My love for filtering mail as soon as it hits the server (thanks GMail!) cannot be overstated. That said, I need to have a marketing email unsubscription campaign a la Daniel. Even when the messages are filtered into the "Commercial" folder, I still feel compelled to read them sometime (like, several times per day). If I save $10 to $20 per year with deals from said emails, but waste countless hours in the process, have I gained anything?

    Recently, I've had a few RSS purging sessions. Being unable to go cold turkey off RSS, I've still gone over my RSS subscriptions a few times, asking questions such as "do I remember anything I read recently from this feed" and "would my life be affected in any meaningful way if I didn't know this information"? If it doesn't pass the test, it's gone.

© 2021 ChurchTechArts

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑