Don’t Open Your Mail

I heard the most amazing story about Napoleon. Apparently he instructed his aides to hold on to his mail for as long as three weeks before opening any of it. Why? Because he knew that most problems resolve themselves if he didn’t knee jerk and over-react to them. So by waiting until he knew about the issues, he was able to avoid worrying about and spending time on things that would distract him from what was truly important. There’s a common matrix called the Eisenhower Matrix using the axes of important/not important, and urgent/non urgent. You may be familiar with it: This shows the areas of our life we can spend our time. Each quadrant is labeled with the things that live in each area. Napoleon’s behavior let him avoid Interruptions. Napoleon lived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Our world is obviously much different than his. The speed and quantity of information was far less in his day than it is in ours. So it’s even more important for us to be able to reduce the noise in our lives so that we can do the things that are good for us, and those we care about. I’ve heard several gurus suggest turning off email and other distractions for 2 to 3 hours at a time. I suppose 2 to 3 hours today is the equivalent of three weeks in the 1800’s. That by itself bears a bit of reflection… As creators, no matter what form that takes from code to studying to art to building and maintaining relationships with others, distractions rob us of providing the true value to our activity. They prevent us from being present. With the obvious exceptions (being on call, waiting to hear back about a job, core job responsibilities, etc) most of us need to create more distraction-free time in our life.
I know that as we spend more time experiencing life in a distracted mode, it can become tempting to believe that we are learning to be more effective even while noticing distractions. I’ve certainly done my share of work while listening to a podcast, or with an episode of The Punisher playing on the other monitor. But studies have proven time and time again that our productivity is robbed by distractions. If anything we are damaging our ability to be present when not in the presence of our distractions, whether that’s by addiction or by neurological damage (the two go hand in hand). So do your boss a favor, and ignore her emails for a few hours. Do your spouse or significant other a favor and turn your phone on airplane mode or leave it behind. Be Present.
The universe, or your higher power, placed you here to create amazing things, and we don’t need 20% of it, or 50% or even 90%. On behalf of your family, your friends, and the world….we need all of it. What distraction can you not give up? Hit reply and tell me about it. As always, have a good weekend, and Happy Coding.

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