Are we Pavlov’s dog to email, twitter, facebook?

pavlov's dog on twitter, facebook, gmailThat sweet sound of an @reply on my twhirl makes me rush to the laptop, a new email alert makes me fire the browser irrespective of that email being read & replied later. The list goes on and on..the itch to check/change the status on facebook, to continuous monitoring of analytics data.

I hate my mobile email — I check, check, check..but postpone the response ‘coz the form factor is good for reading only — so the email doesn’t get responded or time is wasted to revisit it.

Feels like we have become a Pavlovian dog to the ever increasing distractions on the web. If you are developer on a maker’s schedule, the loss of concentration is busting the efficiency.

We are not going to kick the Pavlovian habit, nor we gonna kick the tools we have — but the tools have to get smarter in their delivery of these small bits of information, which they are falling behind on. I’m still waiting for a combined email, social network tool which prioritizes, filters, reminds, and work as personal crm tool rather than separate units of email client, social client, mobile client, readers, etc.

“When I’m in a deep Java debugging session on eclipse, please do not email me, pause all the tweets except from my wife, cousin and investor” — huh, the desktop anti-virus applies a bit of that intelligence already, why can’t my email do the same?

One of my resolutions of 2010 is to do something or get something done in this area (or aggressively consume a product if someone is already doing it).

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  • harishankaran

    I've felt it too.. But what I've realized is time management or anything on that front is not helping me much.. Because instead of checking my tweets or fb status, I end up checking the time every 5 mins..

    In fact, a very strict time management for a developer is always a double edged sword…

  • indus

    The barrage of distractions is a whammy for developers writing code.

    A non-interrupted developer session for 4 hours is more productive than a whole day effort interrupted with calls, emails and others.

  • harishankaran

    Totally agreed 🙂 A fully focused developer session helps to produce bug free code, even if it is less lines of code. What I wanted to add is that even time-management is an interruption for an developer. It doesn't look as bad as fb, twitter or email, but that too does some damage..

    Just wanted to see if everyone feels the same way..

  • indus

    Serious coding can only happen when the movement of anything does not touch you! If you worry about finishing things quicker to attend that con-call, then quality may suffer.

  • You have pointed to the right thing, specially for entrepreneurs, managing time & tasks without getting distracted is very important. While we think we are keeping in touch with the world; we are really wasting time by checking mails / reading tweets , readings SMSs and looking for @'s.

    Some of things I try to follow to keep being from a dog :-:

    – Close all e-mail windows except when I am actively checking mails
    – Have zero unread mails end of every day
    – Disable all notifications of new mails
    – Disable notifications of people going online/offline on Skype
    – No automatic mail downloads on my iPhone. Only manual checking
    – Put my phone on silent before going to bed (or else I will be waking up to see some stupid SMSes)

    And the most important thing which I learned from PG's maker vs manager article. I only do meetings / calls in the second half of the day and keep the first half for myself – to do some un-interrupted and continuous work.

  • indus

    Very well put. The distractions are from the notifications than anything else. The world “alert” has become misnomer!

  • sahilparikh

    Interruptions are terrible but it is the self-discipline that needs to be enforced. I am not sure a better or a more intelligent tool can solve this problem.

  • harishankaran

    Knuth's famously eschews email telling Google co-founder Sergey Brin, a former student of his that:

    'E-mail is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of
    things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible
    concentration.'

    We aren't Knuth, but what he says works for all developers.. Maybe now knuth should add facebook, orkut and twitter to email. 😉

  • indus

    Good quote!

  • indus

    Agree. Looking for a tool which helps with this!

  • Hi Indus,

    Have you tried http://inbox2.com

    Mite not solve all problems but maybe a few.