Cold Turkey Help for Digital Distractions

September 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Attention Management, Information Work, interruption science | Leave a comment

Great article in the New York Times on “Taming Your Digital Distractions“.  While it does follow the “e-mail and social networking = useless distractions” narrative that I find passe, so do most other articles, presentations, books, and studies on information overload.  So I can’t blame Farhad Manjoo for that. 

Besides, what I like is that it gets away from the empty pondering of what we’re doing to our lives and simple time management tips and, instead, provides a slew of actual technologies to try out.  I hadn’t seen these.  Here are the ones in the article and I’ve added links to each. (Note: I haven’t tried them, so this isn’t an endorsement).

  • WriteRoom (full-screen, single-tasking, simple word processing)
  • Dark Room (full-screen, single-tasking, simple word processing)
  • RescueTime Solo (attention shielding and metrics)
  • LeechBlock (attention shielding for Firefox)

While some information overload evangelists would hope these cold turkey tools would demonstrate to someone how addicted they are, I actually would hope for the opposite: that after an hour or so of getting work done they realize they didn’t really miss those distractions and that their social networks didn’t come crashing down because some responses were delayed. 

Once people realize that poor decisions cause their information stress rather than bad evolutionary wiring in their brains or addiction, I think they are more likely to make useful changes to their work processes to improve their efficiency.


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