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The ever-eloquent Matthew Stibbe makes an interesting request on his blog today. He calls for a "concentrate on writing" mode in his word processing software, something to help him focus on the words and not be distracted by email alerts, instant messaging (IM) and the many other interruptions that can extinguish all attempts at concentration. It’s true, the modern office is the very enemy of productivity. Around me know I have three phones, two IM clients, a fancy new Bluetooth headset, news alerts flashing in my desktop sidebar, and a banana just begging to be eaten. Finding any time to knuckle down and really concentrate on a task requires real discipline. Yes, software has a role to play in helping people (Windows Vista has a great ‘presentation mode’ that cuts out online distractions) but the real effort has to come from the individual in creating an environment where they can do their best work.
I love working from home because that’s the one place where I really can focus. My desk holds only those items I need to do my best work and all around me I have the textbooks and stimuli I need to be both creative and productive. I’ve never managed to recreate this environment or the productivity it breeds in a real office―there are simply too many distractions around me here. Would I be more productive with something like a "concentrate on writing" mode? Only if it could eliminate all the other garbage invading my brain in my busy office.
Now, back to work. But first, that banana…