Programmers know the feeling of being in the zone, when we’re extremely focused and just churning out quality code. The unfortunate reality is that it only takes the smallest interruption to break us out of that zone, and yet most of us don’t actively try to suppress the avenues through which we may be interrupted. If you eliminate those avenues, I promise you that you’ll accomplish a lot more than you usually do. Go ahead, give it a try. For the next couple of hours, put your iPhone in airplane mode, disable your Gmail and Google Voice extensions, and put yourself in a place where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic or distractions. Goodbye, Facebook and Twitter notifications. The only way someone should be able to reach you is by physically tapping you on the shoulder.
You might not have the luxury of being able to do this. Maybe you need to be on call in case your server decides to give you a hard time. In that case, you can still take some major steps to minimize the number of distractions you have when you need to get work done. Surely, your boss won’t be trying to reach you for something important through Facebook or Twitter. Turn off those push notifications. A way that many programmers unplug themselves without doing so explicitly is by working into the wee hours of the night. As everyone around them goes to sleep, there are naturally fewer things to distract them. Why shouldn’t you simulate that environment in the daytime to maximize your productivity? Unplugging yourself can be a bit scary at first, especially if you’re always checking your email in case the next one is about how that the uncle you never knew you had left you a couple million dollars. If you’re anything like me, this exercise will show you that you’re actually constantly in a state of distraction, compulsively pulling out your phone at the slightest buzz. When you don’t let other people dictate where your focus lies, you’ll be surprised by how much you can get done.