This is something I’ve been wondering about lately.
If you’re working on a project, is it better to stay focused on it and not let any other interruptions in, or is it okay to let your mind wander and alert you to important things you may need to take care of?
For a long time, I’ve subscribed to Steve Pavlina‘s productivity advice that you should dedicate as much time as you need to see projects to completion (as opposed to spreading the same project out over multiple sessions).
By the way, I still think this is a very effective way of getting things done, but for the intents and purposes of this post, I want to suspend any assumptions or preconceived ideas you and I may have.
Of course, there have also been studies and editorials showing the negative effects of multitasking. If you lose your focus in the middle of working on a project, regaining it could end up taking longer than you might think it would.
But I’m calling this into question because I’m finding that – at times – it’s better to allow for interruptions.
For example, if I’m working on a blog post, and I’m feeling kind of stuck, I might go over to check the latest messages on Twitter. Or maybe I’ll check my email.
Common wisdom has it that this results from a lack of mental discipline and that it’s a slippery spiral into unnecessary distractions. But is it?
I’m not suggesting that social networking or email are high priority activities, but depending on what you do with those interruptions, you might be able to have some creative breakthroughs or insights. You might even be able to close some open loops so that you can focus more intently on what you actually need to work on.
Then, when you come back to that project you were working on, you might be able to finish it quicker than if you had kept beating your head against the wall trying to make it right.
If I were to answer my own question, I guess it really depends on the situation. Does the system serve you, or do you serve the system? You have to make sure that the former is true.
So, maybe there are times when it’s okay to give in to interruptions, but maybe there are other times when it’s not.
What do you think?