Why going DnD will unlock your superpowers

If you’re trying to get more done in less time but feel like you can’t get into flow so you can actually do great work, I may have a simple hack for you...

If you’re trying to get more done in less time but feel like you can’t get into flow so you can actually do great work, I may have a simple hack for you, going DnD on your phone (and computer) by default. Meaning, keeping your phone in Do Not Disturb mode literally all day. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and it’s been a game changer. On my computer, I keep every app that enables communication closed as well. The result has not only been an uptick in my productivity but a sense of peace I haven’t felt since the pandemic started.

The problem with today's hyper-connected society

By default, our phones and computers have notifications enabled to ping us whenever someone desires. It’s kind of bonkers to think that this is how the majority of information workers around the world operate. We’re like rats attached to wires that jolt us whenever a scientist finds it prudent. And yet, we wonder why we struggle to concentrate and accomplish the meaningful work that propels our careers upward and to the left.

With DnD mode enabled by default, I get notifications when it’s good for me, NOT when it’s good for other people. I’m saying to the world, “I’ll be with you in just a moment. In the meantime, please take a number and I’ll be with you when I’m finished.” That might seem a bit pompous but it gives me the uninterruptible peace I need to finish whatever it is I’m working on. That’s the paradigm shift that’s unlocking a significantly greater amount of output from myself.

When Ryan Holiday AND Cal Newport both say the same thing, it's probably worth listening

The idea for this actually started with Ryan Holiday who shared a brief, yet potent sentence in an email that intrigued me. “I make sure I use my phone and my phone isn’t using me. I do this by keeping my phone in DnD mode at all times.” As soon as I read that, I felt called out because I knew that the relationship my phone and I have isn’t the one-way relationship it should be despite my best intentions.

I know the prospect of going DnD full-time just isn’t practical or even possible for a lot of folks depending on their family needs and type of employment but if you classify yourself as an information worker, I’d be willing to say, this might help you not only get more work done but also enjoy a level of mental peace and clarity that may have felt increasingly elusive these past few years.

While Ryan’s sentence got me thinking, it was Cal Newport’s book Deep Work that finally got me to take action. In it, he posited that today’s modern information workers are less productive than ever because they are constantly bombarded with interruptions. Their ability to get “the hard stuff” done that actually matters has worsened over time, not improved. The modern worker may be more available and faster to forward on requested information but the trade-off has been less mental energy and space to do the work that actually “moves the needle.” In a nutshell, our hyper-connectedness has betrayed us. To truly move our careers (and businesses) forward and accomplish “the big, hard things,” you need the physical environment and mental isolation to allow you to focus on the big stuff. Think creative writing, writing code, tackling big complex problems that require complete unadulterated concentration for hours. That’s the stuff that adds zeroes to your bank account.

In the book, Cal shared story after story of writers and scientists who cranked out books and research papers at unheard of volume and speeds. People would wonder how they did it and it wasn’t some unnatural talent. It was carving out 1-2 hours a day, committing to mental isolation and getting their work done. It’s a similar system to getting in shape, you don’t get ripped by going to the gym once for 7 hours. You get ripped by working out daily or nearly daily for an hour.

Your clients and your boss actually want you to ignore them temporarily

I’m not a surgeon and what I mean by that is if I don’t pick up my phone, no one is going to die. I’m a consultant in the sales, marketing, and technology fields. What I do is almost never urgent. I also have no children so no reason to expect a call from daycare that my little monster threw a M-80 in a toilet and blew up the pipes. The trajectory of my business depends on how much “output” I can produce, NOT how fast I produce it. I was obsessed with the latter, instead of focusing on the former. The more content I write, the more emails I send, the more code I write, and the more webpages I design, the more money my clients and myself make. The point I’m trying to make that if you’re feeling hesitant to give this experiment a shot, don’t. It’s in both your and your clients’ interests to do this.

How I actually do this tactically

For starters, I have notifications from my email apps (Gmail) disabled permanently. Email is not the medium for urgent communications and I treat it as such. Whether DnD mode is enabled or not, I never want to hear the ding for an email.

On weekdays, I’m in DnD mode nearly all day. From when I wake up around 5 am until about 3 pm when I wrap up my work day, I’m in DnD mode. Whenever I’m between tasks, I’ll turn off DnD mode for a moment to “poke my head up” and then respond to anything that’s come in. Once those conversations are complete, I go right back into DnD mode. I probably do this 4ish times per day.

Weekends are a different animal obviously as I’m often actively communicating with friends and family and want to be reachable. What’s changed on the weekends for me is having Gmail notifications off like I mentioned before which gives me the mental detachment from work.

We need rest both physically and mentally on the weekends. I might even argue more than just two days of it but that’s another thought experiment entirely. 

How I actually do this tactically

For starters, I have notifications from my email apps (Gmail) disabled permanently. Email is not the medium for urgent communications and I treat it as such. Whether DnD mode is enabled or not, I never want to hear the ding for an email.

On weekdays, I’m in DnD mode nearly all day. From when I wake up around 5 am until about 3 pm when I wrap up my work day, I’m in DnD mode. Whenever I’m between tasks, I’ll turn off DnD mode for a moment to “poke my head up” and then respond to anything that’s come in. Once those conversations are complete, I go right back into DnD mode. I probably do this 4ish times per day.

Weekends are a different animal obviously as I’m often actively communicating with friends and family and want to be reachable. What’s changed on the weekends for me is having Gmail notifications off like I mentioned before which gives me the mental detachment from work.

Closing

Give this a shot, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised what it can do for not only your productivity but also your mental peace.

If you’ve got another hack like this, I’d love to hear about it below.

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