No more notifications

I had a busy day today.

Lots of people were talking to me. Every one of my 8 Slack orgs had activity involving me, sometimes in multiple channels. 4 people were texting me throughout the day. Other random applications on my phone and computer kept demanding my attention. I managed to respond to everything on time but it was exhausting and my productivity suffered.

This has been going on for awhile. Not every day has as many distractions as today but in general, I need to get better at managing my time and my focus. Today I had this moment of clarity.

I care a lot about the people I am around, and the things I work on. I am dedicated and passionate; I like seeing people and projects succeed. Out of that care, I’ve inadvertently made myself immediately available to everyone around me. Being unable to handle all this communication gives me a sense of guilt. It feels as though I’m proving to myself that I don’t care.

In reality, that is completely untrue. In a lot of ways, it’s the opposite of the truth. I fail to care when I divvy up my time so randomly. I fail to care when I allow anything and anyone to grab my attention. I fail to care when I allow the chronological order of pings to determine my focus. Of course, I can focus and the “order of time” isn’t the only priority I consider, but it is a problem for me.

Going forward, I am going to exercise more control over what I focus on. If I have code to write and engineering things to do, that’s the only thing I’m going to focus on. If I need to have a discussion with someone, I will give that person and that meeting the attention that they deserve.

This means that I am going to be leaving my phone and my computer in “Do not Disturb” mode most of the time. Of course, there are some things that need to be able to notify me asynchronously… that’s useful! I need to know when I have a meeting scheduled, or if a server is going down, or if my flight is late, or if someone needs my attention. However, I’m going to be in control of when I respond to those things, and the decision to tend to something later won’t be coupled with pangs of guilt.

If someone is pinging me about a subject matter that is not critical and I’m focusing, then I’ll be responding a little bit later. I’m not postponing my response because the person pinging me isn’t important to me, but because they are very important to me. When we talk, they deserve my full attention.

On the other side of things, when I ping people I’m going to stop starting conversations with words like “ping” or “hey” or “yo”. That’s doesn’t help anyone understand the critical or non-critical nature of my desire to converse. If I really need their immediate attention, I’ll make sure they understand it’s urgent so they can re-focus. However a lot of the time, when I leave someone a note in Slack or text them, I don’t need a response immediately or at all.

I am going to give this new communication pattern a shot. We’ll see how it works!