You can afford the time; just not the distraction

I know you've had these sorts of days: you're getting some work done and you're in your flow state where everything is happening seamlessly without you having to think about it. You know every step you need to take, two steps before you take it and it's perfect. You're in the midst of creating the best work of your life and then... the phone rings.

It's your neighbor. He wants to borrow your grill.

"Sure," you tell him, but inwardly your screaming horrible things at him at the top of your mental lungs.

It took less than 90 seconds to listen to him and reply, so why did it upset you so much?

It wasn't because you couldn't afford the time, it was because you couldn't afford the distraction.

All of us know that in order to get work done that requires any sort of cognitive depth, we are at our peak when we're able to sit down with a large block of time at our disposal. It allows us to put aside thoughts that ordinarily hover in our mind's peripherals and find our groove, distraction-free. That's why Emperor Kuzco was so upset when the old man threw his off.

There's a great essay written by Paul Graham called "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule." In it, Paul says,

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. [...] For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.
— Paul Graham

Here're the takeways:

Makers: Minimize distractions

So you want to create the best work of your life? Give yourself the distraction-free environment to do so. This is where tools such as Cold Turkey and Concentrate come in handy. Put way the cell-phone, block the distracting sites that will lead you down the proverbial rabbit hole of the internet and give yourself the time to slip into flow.


Managers (this includes bosses, spouses & grill-borrowing neighbors): Don't be a distraction

If you don't want to be the blunt of a Maker's angry mind, give them their space. That may sound funny and a little ridiculous but we're serious. You can play a huge part in our creative process. Maker's need to know you're on our side and sometimes the best way to show this is by assuring us that you'll give them the distraction-free time they need. It might mean keeping the kids out of the home-office for an afternoon, not interrupting your employee unless it's urgent or buying your own grill (kidding - neighbors are awesome). From all of us Makers, thank you in advance.