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This is my attempt to re-frame a recently-closed question in a more positive and productivity-focused way.

Various cultural artifacts make mention of writers that escaped to isolated cottages far away to finish books, or design teams that were locked away in hotels for a week until they emerged with the right design.

In either context, I'm interested in peoples' experiences with this sort of long term isolation (so this isn't even close to the 'turn off email for a day' approach), and I'm interested in any research that looks into the 'focus entire being on a single problem until either you break or it does' approach.

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Hi Joe- the productivity drive piece of this question is on topic, but the social cost piece isn't. It is still a bit subjective though. –  Rory Alsop Dec 24 '12 at 23:23
    
Hang on - let me run an edit... –  Joe Dec 24 '12 at 23:24

3 Answers 3

It seems not many are interested in this question, so I will try to provide my own experience as an answer.

I think isolation itself is not a drive for productivity, but it creates the good conditions:

  1. It eliminate the noise and interruption, which is very bad. Many studies point out that the time we spend for re-concentrating after interruption is a lot.

  2. It's a change of environment. In my experience, any change of environment makes me feel more alert and conscious (for example, change of work, going to a new place...). The environment change makes the brain work and disposes the old "comfort zone", which create a place for new ideas & thoughts.

I have spent several months studying mathematics in high school. That's when I took advantage of an abandoned house of my aunt's when she was preparing her new house. The only thing that made me stop at that time is a meal, which I took alone too.

Strangely, in such an empty room with a few books, I felt much more concentrated, and got hundreds of problems done within days. I didn't think much about what happens outside, just math, math & math. The result surprised even me.

But that's only my experience, and the experience may change with personalities. I know quite a few people who will be crazy if they were in my case. But somehow being alone doesn't bother me that much.

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Keep in mind that you posted this on Christmas Eve. A lot of people are offline and haven't even seen the question yet. Plus it isn't something a lot of people have experience with. –  Jeanne Boyarsky Dec 25 '12 at 17:39

I once lived for about one month without any human interaction at all, except local store cashier once a day. And I wasn't disconnected from social networks, email, etc.

I can't say it's very driving, but yes, it helps to do things.

On the dark side, such lifestyle driving into social isolation. One day you may have a very attractive idea that such lifestyle is only one good way of living. That may put your social life on risk.

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A short answer to you question is: it depends.

The longer one: for some people and some tasks, the temporal isolation leads to higher productivity because of removing distracting factors you have mentioned. Those tasks are usually the.most creative ones, such as writing, or those requiring the.most concentration, such as working on mathematical theory.

But those are the exceptions. Most of the people need contact with others for inspiration, verification and finding errors or weak points. By contacting other people you utilise their knowledge and processing power and you gain the feedback of your thinking process is going in correct direction or if you are stuck in some kind of conspiration theories or perception errors.

You should use solitude to calm down and then verify what is working at best for you.

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An example from my recent experience: I spent a week in a cottage, with a notebook. First four days, I was extremely productive. Next three days I was mostly bored and did very little. -- If this pattern repeats later, it means that four days in a cottage would be the optimum time for me, for this type of task. For other tasks or for other people, other values may work better. Some things you only find by experimenting. –  Viliam Búr Jan 7 '13 at 15:34

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