24 August 2008

On Multi-Ignoring

We all do it, some better than others but I have yet to see anyone who has perfected it - multi-tasking. So I've always referred to multi-tasking as multi-ignoring. Well it seems that Merlin Mann has found someone who thinks the same way. For those not willing the click through, here's the quote:

Multitasking is the art of distracting yourself from two things you'd rather not be doing by doing them simultaneously.

This pretty much sums it up. I say pretty much because I know that I have been guilty of multi-ignoring when I have way too many tasks to handle. That doesn't happen to me so much these days, but I've gone through periods in the past where this just doesn't seem to stop. The other thing that pushes me into this state are constant interruptions. Being interrupted multiple times every hour can make even the most productive person start to do this. That's when you either:

  • A. Log off IRC and IM and just go dark for a few days to get it all done ;-), OR

  • B. Throw it in the bit bucket - /ignore

Tim's latest comment inspired me to update this post regarding some things that author Neal Stephenson said about the process of writing and Merlin Mann blogged about.

Concentration when writing is so important. I think that Neal Stephenson explained it best when he said the following:

Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can’t concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can’t do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless.

Check it out via Merlin Mann's blog post series about Neal Stephenson's comments.


  1. Bruce, I feel like I've done this very recently, especially the log off IRC part. Honestly, it is sometime the only way to get anything done.

  2. You're telling me! I find myself spending sooooooooo much time with email and other types of communication that it's amazing that I can actually be productive with anything :-(.

  3. Nevermind programming, how about writing in the presence of interruption. The only way I can ever finish a book is by turning off Skype + IRC + Mail. I think we should all agree that Monday is no email day or something like that.

  4. 100% agreed! Check out my update to the blog post where I reference Neal Stephenson's quote and a link to Merlin Mann's writeup on it.