Component/Fundamental #8 – Interrupting v2

Definition

In the book titled “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author talks about the optimal psychological state – one in which a person gets lost in the activity at hand. They get lost in time, and experience a kind of empty silence as they focus all their attention on the task at hand. Their creativity and productivity are as high as they can get.

Then the phone rings, someone answers it and someone wants to sell them stocks. They brush off the call, but not quickly enough. Their state of flow is gone.

They buckle down again, and 30 minutes later they are back in the flow state. They are once again focused, and time whizzes by.

That is, until they get a note from their spouse via their secretary that screams at them because they forgot to pick up their child, who is now languishing at the day care facility, and all of a sudden they are over two hours late.

While the state of flow is the best possible one to be in, it is potentially a dangerous one, because one’s full range of awareness is intentionally limited to complete the task at hand.

To effectively manage time, a user needs methods for both entering and interrupting the flow state.

Practices

The time management methods designed in the 2Time Management system are enough to ensure that a user enters the flow state frequently. To exit the flow state a physical interruption is needed, and there are many devices that can be used, including the following:

  • an obnoxious alarm clock
  • a secretary who is utterly reliable, and unstoppable
  • an egg-timer with a bell
  • a digital count-down time, perhaps on a watch
  • an email reminder from a service like MemoToMe.com
  • a reminder of a task or appointment in Outlook
  • a PDA alarm or timer
  • a loud reminder on a cell phone, mp3 player or television set
  • a parent, spouse or young child

One of the most effective alarms I ever used was a digital-watch alarm that reminded me when to go to bed. I used it in order to help me get up early in the morning to exercise for my first Ironman-distance triathlon. It helped me to change the habit I had of watching television late into the night, basically just killing time.

The best-practice is to replace one’s memory with automatic, robotic reminders.


  • The Novice or White Belt in time management tries to use their memory to recall the start of new activities, and to stop themselves just in time to keep their schedule on track. They frequently spend too much time on tasks, causing chaos in their daily schedules. They are unable to enter the flow state completely because they always have to keep an eye on the clock. Often, novices are overly-confident that they can awaken themselves at the right time each morning, stop themselves before meetings start and remember occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and tax deadlines. The Novice reacts to each mistake as if it were unique, without seeing a pattern of broken appointments.
  • A Yellow or Orange Belt has begun to use different kinds of interrupters, but not regularly enough to prevent problems. They still rely on their memory on a daily basis. They have not begun to schedule reminders more than a few days in advance.
  • A Green Belt uses every possible device, apart from their own memory, to interrupt themselves. They have daily, weekly, monthly and annual reminders to do their remembering for them. They are rarely late for meetings and appointments, as their reminders let them know when they need to start preparing and travelling.They never forget key dates, to pay bills, to wake up in time for important morning events, etc. They have outsourced the business of reminding themselves to stop whatever they are doing in order to start important activities.

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