Actions after which I expect some kind of response seem to be more costly than the direct time cost they incur (for me, at least).
They also incur a decreased effectiveness of the time just afterward, due to causing me to be anticipatory – e.g. I am more likely to check up on whether I have received a response, and empirically find it generally harder to focus.
Examples of such actions
- Messaging someone and awaiting a response
- Leaving a comment or post on LessWrong or the EA forum
- Being physically near people who might call upon me or talk to me
- This one also makes “messaging someone and awaiting a response” more likely since I am more likely to need to coordinate in various ways with these people or follow up about things that were discussed in person
Ways to combat this cost
- Go physically far away from people – e.g. plane, train, Airbnb, hotel, etc.
- This seems to be a big part of why I am so productive on planes
- Make a habit of asking “how important is this message, really?” before sending messages
- If working in a space with others near, create a norm that only you can go into your working space, or that others should message you if they want to enter?
I am curious who else has or hasn't noticed this kind of cost, and whether anyone has ideas for combatting it (my guess is that the policies I am currently operating under don't respect this cost enough -- e.g. I made 3-5x more progress toward my most important goal while on a plane yesterday than while not on a plane today, and it seems like if I had better mechanisms for appreciating the costs of being anticipatory, this difference could have been at least 10% smaller).