Data Plans

Hi, I’m Brian, I have a blackberry and I don’t have a data plan.

Sacrilege cry the masses! But I have a good reason and it’s simple, I get email. Not a lot of email but just enough.  Enough to know that a data plan would decrease my productivity.  Let me explain.

On any given day I usually have between 6-12 hours where I can do work.  This includes coding, reading papers, writing papers or miscellaneous work (TA, course work, supervising undergrads etc.).  Now this sounds like a lot but it really isn’t.  And the reason is you can’t get any meaningful work done unless you have at least a two hour block of time (although some would argue 45 mins. but I think that applies more to meetings).  Think about it.  To sit down, get into the right mind set (i.e. context switch), remember where you left off so that you’re ready to do some kind of efficient work on that task takes at least half a hour.  Put in another hour of real work then add 30 mins. for bad estimations (because things always take longer than you expect) and two hours is up already.

This is of course a lower bound on that block of time you need.  For coding or writing papers, I like to reserve at least 4 hours.  So what’s the problem some may ask, 4 is less than 6 right?  Wrong.  Like most real world problems, there are frictions.  Things like meetings, chatting with peers, noisy environments, meals and you guessed it email.

I get somewhere between 10 and 40 emails a day.  And if I had a data plan then for every email I get, my phone would make a cute little sound and starts flashing this tiny little red light.  As soon as I hear that sound or catch a glimpse of that flashing diode, I’m distracted and there goes my continuous chunk of time.  All of a sudden a 12 hour block of time gets divided into 10 different pieces and my productivity goes down the drain.  This isn’t a new realization either, it’s well documented that these minor distractions bring down efficiency (reading is great isn’t it?) like a gentle breeze across a house of cards.  I don’t know about you but I like to be productive and that’s why my name is Brian, I have a blackberry and I don’t have a data plan.

P.S. I realize it’s possible to get a data plan and not have push email capabilities but I feel like it’s a waste of money to get a data plan and then not take advantage of one of the major features.  Plus, I think I’d have a hard time explaining to people my reasoning.  It’s just easier for now to not have a data plan.