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Keep Focus By Tuning Out Your Computer

by Mike Bria on Feb 25, 2009 |

Agile practitioners have come to understand the negative effect “context-switching” has on productivity when it comes to your projects and teams. To what degree do the same ideas apply at the daily task and personal interaction level, and what can people do to avoid micro-level multi-tasking problems? Phil Gerbyshak offers some advice.

In a recent article, Phil Gerbyshak highlights five simple ways to help keep yourself focused on your task and/or conversation (paraphrased):

  • Turn away from the computer and directly towards the other person”: your computer can steal your attention from the person you are holding a conversation with, don’t let it
  • Lean forward towards the person talking”: closer proximity to your collaborator increases your engagement with them, and distancing yourself from your computer decreases your attachment to it
  • Turn off audible alerts on email and instant messenger”: beeps from your programs are guaranteed to create some level of distraction for you
  • Send your phone directly to voicemail (or just ignore it)”: even glancing at your phone to see who’s beckoned can break your flow
  • Take your Blackberry out of your pocket and set it to silent”: it’s basically a palm-sized computer, treat it as such

This advice is essentially common sense, even obvious, yet is likely to be advice many people are currently not following. Further, the advice is in no way advertised by Gerbyshak under an agile umbrella nor targeted officially to agile teams, but nonetheless is advice that many agile teams might benefit from observing.

Afterall, many aspects of agile development work in large part to reduce the inefficiencies multi-tasking can introduce; they work to help teams suffer less from "context switching". Many agilists have grown to understand and accept this as at the level of how they schedule their projects, structure their teams, and organize their work within iteration boundaries.

But, as discussed by many (including, for example, Scott Sterling) and as can be experienced firsthand through a quick exercise from Clarke Ching, the harmful effects of multi-tasking potentially go all the way down to the even slightest interruptions throughout your day.

So, you’ve adopted agile and are trying to follow its guidance to keep your team and its members focused and effective. How much do you think Gerbyshak’s simple advice can help you?

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Interruptions by Lionell Griffith

It gets really bad when the interruptions of your interruptions get interrupted. Unfortunately, this is business as usual in most work environments.

For those of us who must think to work, the ability to think is destroyed. For those of us who don't have to think, it doesn't matter. They don't get much worthwhile accomplished with or without interruptions. The latter includes most managers I have known. Yet it is they who get to choose the working conditions for the one's who must think and complain that we don't get much done.

That is why I work alone and am my own boss. I can talk back to my boss and get away with it. I can even tell him to shut up and he does. When this can be implemented in a teem environment, the teem might actually become agile.

How to keep focused on programming by Francisco Jose Peredo Noguez

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Keep Focus By Tuning Out Your Coworkers by Francisco Jose Peredo Noguez

My five simple ways to help keep myself focused (in the programming task at hand):

* ”Turn away from the person and directly towards the computer”: the person can steal your attention from the computer you are programming with, don’t let it

* ”Lean away of the person talking (or forward towards your computer monitor) ”: closer proximity to your computer increases your engagement with it, and distancing yourself from distracting people decreases your attachment to them

* ”Turn off audible alerts on email and instant messenger”: beeps from your programs are guaranteed to create some level of distraction for you

* ”Send your phone directly to voicemail (or just ignore it)”: even glancing at your phone to see who’s beckoned can break your flow

* ”Take your Blackberry out of your pocket and set it to silent”: it’s basically a medium for a person to distract you, treat it as such

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