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Reblogged:Focus in the Face of Changing Tech and Norms

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As long as you don't need to concentrate, ... (Image by Muhammed Abiodun, via Unsplash, license.
Miss Manners recently replied to someone who lamented the fading-away of the old custom of restricting social phone calls to times when the recipient was likely to be awake.

The analysis of why that has become a problem is on the right track, but I'd go further. I blame texting: It's so spontaneous that it's nearly impossible for everyone in a conversation among geographically dispersed members to remember THAT ONE GUY who lives in another time zone, especially when it's a topic everyone is excited about. And once one gets into the habit of texting anytime, I imagine it can be easier to call anyone who reciprocates at any time, too.

I had the texting version of this problem when we relocated to the Eastern time zone, moving my bedtime to a common time for my folks in Mississippi to group text. I think I tried reminding everyone of the problem and having it work for a few weeks each time before somebody would forget and initiate a group text with me in it. I did eventually end up taking a similar expedient to the one Miss Manners ends up recommending:
However, you need not inform them what time they may call as you can enforce obedience by -- and Miss Manners realizes she is about to make a shocking suggestion -- turning off your phone. You are probably not the one to handle their emergencies anyway.
I have notifications for all asynchronous communication (e.g., text and email) turned off. I look at those in batches periodically. For texting, this has the added advantage that I can catch up the next day.

For calls, my solution is likewise similar, but not as drastic. It's the same thing I do with problem pocket-dialers: I set their ring tone to silent, and temporarily set calls to vibrate if I am expecting a call from a problem number.

As I have noted before, batching these things together at set times has the added benefit of making it easier to concentrate on other things when I need to. Cal Newport greatly expands on this principle in a recent recommendation (audio, starting at 42:13) regarding instant messaging in a work context. Newport's comments are especially helpful because he addresses an implementation problem: You may need to be patient and train others to accept this newer, better way of doing things.

-- CAV

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