Time Well Spent

Facebook continues to improve its ad targeting on me.  I’m not sure how to feel about that, but Timeular is nonetheless interesting.

I imagine Timeular would exhibit a strong Observer Effect.  That may or may not be a good thing.  Depending on the kind of work you are instrumenting, it may squeeze out wasteful time, and it may serve as harassment that prevents attainment of Flow.  For many folks, passive analysis of digital exhaust streams may prove more effective.

I recently read Silence: In The Age Of Noise by Erling Kagge after a Lunch With The FT article piqued my curiosity.  Memorable among the stories was an interview with a Space-X manager who noted that the only times he could perform deep thinking were in the toilet, in the shower, on his commute, etc.  It made me reflect on my evolving work patterns through time and their implications.

For the majority of my career, up until ~2.5 years ago, I did the bulk of my work physically located in a SCIF and digitally located on networks that were ruthlessly segmented.  With the benefit of hindsight, I look back on this arrangement as wonderful. While security concerns drove the arrangement, the benefits to knowledge work proved substantial.

You could not bring cell phones into the building.  You could not connect to the Internet from your primary work station.  Want to use your cell phone?  Walk out to your car.  Want to use the Internet?  Use a physically distinct work station.  This probably sounds crazy if you have not lived it, but actually it is kind of awesome in its own quirky way.  By imposing a transaction cost on this context switching the environment discouraged flitting between work modalities in a way that destroys focus.

I remember telling people during this time of my life that I did some of my best work sitting in the toilet at the office.  I might wander there in a trance like state, having loaded a complex problem into my head but not yet worked out a solution, and sit in a sensory deprivation chamber while I cogitated.  Now, thanks to the technology of Apple and Facebook, as well as the reduced paranoia of a non-governmental employer, I can use my toilet time to watch cat videos or read about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  Using that time as I perhaps ought takes a conscious effort and serious discipline.

For many years I took for granted the cognitive boundaries that my employer engineered for me.  Now I must engineer them myself.

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