@Crusty: ...I have pictures but they might frighten our readers with a delicate nature....
I'm sure they would, but let's focus on the problems with your house. Seriously, I'm terribly sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations, and I hope you get thing ssorted out real soon -- maybe afterwards you can think about taking a vacation ... how about coming to EE Live! 2014 at the end of March?
Crusty Mansion is again under siege from the builders.
Whilst much of America has been blasted into the deep free, England has been lashed with wind and rain storms of 50 to 100 year severity, no doubt your Mum can tell you about it.
Christmas Eve found us with buckets an mops collecting the rain as best we could, that had come through the first floor window frames. The 50 year old lead flashings had finaly decided enough was enough and the little dribbles we had not noticed turned into torrents that could not now be missed.
Suffice to say my attic workshop aka (pleasure dome) has now become a resting place for all the two upstair bedrooms, which have had to be vacated so the windows can be pulled out and reset with new lead flashings, along with general repairs to all the roof bits that could leak water in the future.
Blogging has had to go on hold while I project manage the builders and get state of the art building materials in to replace the old and tired structures.
I have pictures but they might frighten our readers with a delicate nature.
Once the building repairs are complete then the redecoration will have to be done.
Looks like I will be picking up e-mails at lunch time only, now was that not the whole point of your article?
Jack wrote an article about removing distractions while doing things that require intense focus, such as coding. I think I remembered he suggested to shut off the email/IM app's, unplug the phone, and put tape with a sign across your cubicle opening saying "Do not disturb until xx:xx". And he also agrees with someone's research which shows that it would pay for employers to give all developers an office with a closeable door as opposed to being forced to work in the distraction-ridden cubicle farm. I couldn't agree more. Especially after my last experience having to listen to someone sniffling every 10 seconds for days instead of simply blowing their nose to eliminate the problem. Drove me absolutely insane. I had to leave work to buy a set of earphones so I could listen to white noise on YouTube while working to block it out.
A few years back, the British IT news site, The Register UK, had a story on a mid-sized British company whose owner had forbidden email. After looking at things, he decided the time his people were spending reading and replying to email was far better spent staying close to the firm's customers, and being sure they were happy and their needs were met, so they would stay customers. After the iniyial "What?! How can you work without email?" response, I thought about it and said, "You know, he's got a point."
Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task, and most of us are fooling ourselves when we think so. We aren't anywhere near as good as we'd like to believe.
In computer terms, the reasons are simple.
First, context switches are expensive. When a process is interrupted, the system must save its state, handle what ever the interrupt was, then restore the previous state and resume. Computers can do that far faster than humans, and even a computer can suffer if there are too many interrupts, and things slow down because it's spending more time and effort context switching than it is on any particular process. For humans, the same issue is an order of magnitude worse.
Second, how is state saved? Often on a stack. If the stack isn't large enough, or something trashes it, the system might have Pushed, but all Hell breaks loose when it tries to Pop. In humans, the stack is usually short term memory. How many times has an interruption completely derailed your train of thought, leaving you groping for what you were doing before it occurs? How much of your time was spent recovering?
People who think they are good at multi-tasking will be sobered if they actually do the analysis about how much they accomplish trying to multi-task vs how mush they accomplish if they concentrate on one thing at a time and finish it.
On a different line, at a previous employer, I flatly refused to install the IM client IT staffers were supposed to use to stay in touch with users and each other. My job often required me to spend concentrated time thinking through an issue and developing a solution. I got too many interruptions as it was. The issue was finally put to rest in an IT conference call where a co-worrker said "The nice thing about Dennis is that if he's at his desk, he picks up the phone first ring. If he doesn't pick up, he's not at his desk, and you won't get him in IM, either." Bless him.
I broke myself of the habit of obsessing about missing phone calls decades ago. "Gee. I just missed a call. If it's that important, they'll call back." I feel the same way about email. It can damn well wait till I get around to it. If it's so important it requires an immediate response, call me. Otherwise, I'll respond when I can. (And I can't offhand recall any email, business or private, that couldn't wait till I got to it.)
I take pains to classify my email, and make sure I see important stuff, and that the important stuff does get answered. I don't obsess about how quickly that happens. Depending on circumstances, it might be immediately, or it might be later or a day or so. The important thing is that folks I deal with know I will answer.
Robert Townsend had some sage advice on related topics in his book "Up the Organization", a memoir of his time as CEO of Avis Rent A Car in the days it was a distant number two to Hertz, and came up with the legendary "We Try Harder" campaign. Among other things he arranged his day in blocks. There were blocks for concentration on things to be dealt with, where he did not answer the phone. Calls during that time were handled by his assistant, who said "He's not available at the moment. May he call you back?" (and asked that before she asked who was calling.) She noted all names and numbers, and when he was available, he returned the calls in the order received, and it didn't matter who the caller was. You called him? He returned your call. He suggested other CEOs might try calling themselves from outside to see what obstacles they had placed in the path of people trying to reach them. (It might be very important indeed, but you won't know because the caller couldn't reach you.)
Substitute "read and reply to email" for "answer the phone" above, and the advice is still applicable. You learn to prioritize on a project as an engineer, and concentrate on the most important current part. The same applies to everyhing surrounding the project. Email might not be the most important thing you have to do at any parrticular moment, and it can wait.
@ Bill Holland: Don Knuth famously closed his email account on January 1, 1990...
Quite some time ago (10 or more years I think), I was invited to a Computer History Museum occasion in CA when Konrad Zuse was elected to the Hall of Fame (posthumously, of course -- I was invited by Konrad's son, Horst Zuse).
As part of this there were several speeches by people who one would class as "pioneers of computing". As part of his presentation, one old guy said that he was tremendously proud of all that he had achieved, and he was amazed by the ways in which computers and technology in general had evolved, but that one of the happiest times in his life was when he retired and got rid of his cell phone and email account.
He pointed out that now people couldn't leave things until the last minute before dumping them on him. If they wanted him to talk at something like this induction ceremony, for example, they had to think about it long in advance and write him a letter. As the years go by I think about this more and more... LOL
So true..checking your emails at home immidiately raises the stress levels. Yesterday my husband came home late evening and checked his emails and opened a status xl sent by his manager and said "oh my god I have many actions open need to go back and fix it". And he went back to office. Was thinking if he hadnt checked emails at home his stress would be less.