I’ve been fortunate recently to take a break from video game development and really focus on what the next exciting stage of my career is going to be. I was overseas for a week recently in a remote area of Spain and I was taken away from the ubiquitous 24/7/365 connectivity with the world that we find ourselves part of everyday whilst trying to devote ourselves to video games. Back home internet access has become as important is breathing: wifi hotspots, fast data over 3G, netbooks and the iPhone mean that you’re only ever seconds away from a rich world of content. Strip this away and you can really escape the noise and focus.
Whilst away, connecting took a lot of effort, I had to head out quite a distance and find an open WiFi spot to hang off and connect with the outside world. At the time I had a lot of important things to do and I couldn’t afford to be disconnected for even 24hrs and I didn’t have the luxury of a paid expense account to fund expensive roaming data.
There was a pleasant side-effect brought about by a lack of noise from the internet: time connected had to be purposeful and focused and there was no time for lazy searching and going off on tangents. Check email, check the blog, answer questions, check social networks, cache information, done.
The natural implication is that it allowed for plenty of time for reading, thinking and preparing without a barrage of interrupting calls, emails, status updates and tweets. Things we deem necessary in the 21st century.
I’ve always tried to control the flow to a degree, I would confess that back home I purposefully stem the flow of information in a few ways or there’s just no time for work, we all need time to breath and think about what’s going on or we’re just reacting:
- a) E-Mail only syncs every 30mins (or when I send). This can seem like a lifetime but it means you’ve got some time to work. If someone wants something urgently then they’ll call.
- b) Phone calls - this is a bit controversial but I occasionally let a call go to voice mail in order to figure out if I think it’s important to interrupt what I’m doing. I imagine the person standing next to me and wonder if they’d interrupt if they could actually see what I was doing at that moment. The exception here is my family and people I work for, who always get priority.
- c) Social Networks - I check my personal once daily, and my business ones a lot more frequently than that, as they are by definition, business related and therefore an opportunity may be lurking.
I think it’s true to say that we only rarely do things require a response within seconds, certainly not if the correct considered answer is required.
I’d easily use the word “liberating” to describe the disconnection and having this space (or slack) is something I think we all need in order to do our best work. It’s a luxury but it’s nice to be reminded of what it’s like to be un-interrupted from time-to-time but I’m glad to be plugged back in.