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Create Quiet Time

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Yes, this is exactly the second paragraph, Neal Ford writes about in Chapter 3:Focus in his latest book "The Productive Programmer".

To quote Neal

If you work in an office with lots of other developers, consider instituting "quiet time", for example, from 9 A.M to 11 A.M and 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. During this time, everyone has their email turned off, there are no meetings, and it is verboten to call or go talk to someone unless there is an emergency.


When I first came here to USA, close to 8 years back, that's exactly what I was doing. Checking my emails as soon as I got to my desk at work, and just before I came back home. Many a times, I missed quite a few meetings in spite of being in the office, since every one just used email.

Next thing I know, I became addicted to email and also different instant messengers. Some like msn, some like yahoo, some one else likes Google Talk, and in no time I had several applications running simultaneously.

Did it distract me? Yes it did. Many times I used to login as invisible. That didn't help either, since in spite of being invisible, I constantly monitored the people that came online. And, I worked long hours to compensate for all these distractions.

Now being a Consultant, I can't afford to get distracted. I also have my cell phone on vibrate and hidden deep in my bag, and I check my emails and phone only during lunch and just before leaving work. Of course it has a huge impact; positive as well as negative. Positive being the huge gain in productivity and not being distracted at any cost. Negative in that I keep wondering every now and than if I missed any important email or a phone call.

So, how do you keep yourself away from all these latest gadgets? Is there any other technique that keeps you away from distractions?

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Meera Subbarao.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Schalk Neethling replied on Tue, 2008/08/26 - 3:58pm

I share your feeling. IM, cell phones, email etc. can be a God send and a major distraction. I recently worked at a company that had meetings constantly.

I always felt that we as developers can be a lot more productive developing then sitting in 4 hour meetings. And then when the deadline is defined, project managers tend to forget all the time we were locked up in meetings thinking and re-thinking everything.

I believe in large companies every person should not just carry a badge but that their 'badge' should directly effect what their responsibilities are. Developers are there to develop, solve problems and deliver on business requirements. Not to sit in 4 hours meetings discussing what might or might not be implemented in future.

Meera Subbarao replied on Tue, 2008/08/26 - 4:03pm

I completely agree with you, Schalk. I have been in those hour long meetings, where just one developer aruging the wrong way would lead us to being there for hours.

I have also been in meetings where developers kept their cell phones on, and used to walk out each time they received a personal call.  

Angie Tan replied on Thu, 2008/08/28 - 12:46am

It's quite hard to have a quiet time in our "plugged-in" world. Especially more so when you've got gadgets such as Blackberry and technology such as Push email from mobile phones. Besides that, in a globalized workplace where your colleagues work at different hours, we find ourselves being "pinged" at very odd hours too.

When the company norm is to communicate via e-mail and phones, it is even harder to stay away. :-(

Perhaps the only quiet time I have is sometime before lunch and before I go home, where I can just take 5 minutes to cleanse my mind.

Anyway, this is a good practice - for developers, it is probably good to spend a bit of time in the morning to check through what needs to be done and then spend the rest of the day concentrating at the development tasks at hand. 

For other roles where communication is important, I'd guess we try to find our quiet time in a few minutes at a time. 

Meera Subbarao replied on Thu, 2008/08/28 - 9:12am in response to: Angie Tan

Yes, indeed. It applies well for programmers and not for other roles like Program Managers, CTO's etc.

 Meera Subbarao

Aldian Fazrihady replied on Thu, 2008/08/28 - 9:55pm

You should ask for fee. your article made me bought the book :D

Meera Subbarao replied on Fri, 2008/08/29 - 6:23am

From whom? The publishers or the author? Just kidding, I would like to share whatever I learn.  And, so are many here at Javalobby and other Zones doing.

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