Week-long IM Fast

Posted by Scott on Aug 11th, 2008

Every so often I take a break from Instant Messaging (IM) to see how it impacts my productivity and concentration. This week I have chosen to take one of these “IM fasts.” Please use email to contact me.

IM Fast Reflections

Posted by Scott on Dec 15th, 2006

Well, it’s been a week, and the experiment is over. Unfortunately, I had to use IM for a couple of hours yesterday to firm up plans to head to Boston with a friend who was unavailable by telephone (thanks a lot, Billy!). At any rate, the point of the experiment was still made. The verdict? IM: you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it. 🙂

I can’t see myself doing without IM entirely, as it would wreck what bit of a social life I do have. At the same time, I’m going to be much more conscious about when and how I plan to use IM when I log on, and will probably limit it to a few hours each day, and then turn it off. As with many things, moderation is key.

The Boston event I referred to above involved attending a talk given by Noam Chomsky. It was an interesting overview of the state of populist movements in Latin America, and a striking contrast to what we consider political issues in the U.S. In places such as Bolivia, elections were over issues such as local control of natural resources, particularly land and water rights, and the human rights of indigenous people. A person like Evo Morales wouldn’t have a chance in a U.S. presidential election today, where our last White House race consisted of two people who attended the same ivy league school, were members of the same Skull and Bones elite society, and who were funded by incredibly concentrated, private interests. Most Latin American countries face difficult challenges because foreign investment is so deep – unlike East Asia, where strong internal investment helps to prevent these countries’ political systems from being manipulated so thoroughly by foreign countries. It was a thought-provoking lecture on issues I was very unaware of.

IM Fast Update

Posted by Scott on Dec 10th, 2006

It’s been over two days since I started my week without instant messaging, and I’m definitely noticing the differences. Am I feeling more productive? Yes. I also feel I’m more efficiently focusing on whatever’s in front of me, whether it’s an e-mail, article, or code I’m reading. I think that’s a big plus, and it would easily be worth it at this point just to swear off IM forever if there were no downsides to this.

But there are downsides to it. I already feel disconnected from a lot of my friends whom I communicate over IM with regularly. Surprisingly, short chat sessions with them make up fairly meaningful connections I have with them. Often times we’re exchanging interesting URLs over IM. As a budding entrepreneur, this frequently revolves around product ideas or interesting market research that I find very useful. I’ve sent out a few of these kinds of updates via e-mail now, but no one is responding. I don’t blame them – IM is just too convenient for these types of exchanges. Share a link or an idea, and get feedback from someone in real time. There are also many social plans that get made over IM, and I’m wondering if I’ve already missed an opportunity to grab lunch or a beer with some of my friends.

I’m certainly going to continue this productivity experiment, but as of now I’m thinking when it’s over I am definitely going to continue using IM, but I may end up managing it a bit differently, such as limiting the time I’m on-line (my “Away” status is generally ignored by most poeple – they just see my user icon and fire off a message). Perhaps using something like Campfire would also be easier to contain from an interruption standpoint.

A One-Week IM Fast

Posted by Scott on Dec 8th, 2006

Inspired by Kathy Sierra’s extremely insightful post The Asymptotic Twitter Curve, I’ve decided to stay unplugged from Instant Messaging for a full week. That would be until next Friday around 3:15 PM. It’s true that IM is the most frequent mental interruption I deal with daily. I’ll report on how this productivity experiment goes on this blog.

A person I work with whom I admire for his focus and drive makes a point of never using IM because of its interruptions. I have the feeling he’s onto something.

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