Driven to distraction?

Jul 22 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Worried about a lack of productivity – either your own or that of colleagues? The solution could well be to ditch many of the things that are supposed to make us more productive.

According to Carl Honore, author of "In Praise of Slowness," the typical office worker gets interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message or other distraction.

But it takes about eight uninterrupted minutes for the brains to get into a really creative state.

In other words, the communications tools that are supposed to make our working lives run more smoothly are actually preventing us from getting things done.

For Dan Russell at IBM, the answer is radical – but effective:

After concluding three years ago that he was becoming a slave to e-mail, Russell decided to put his foot down. These days, he takes his time replying to messages. All his responses say at the bottom: "Join the slow email movement! Read your mail just twice each day. Recapture your life's time and relearn to dream.

Russell has turned off the e-mail settings that deliver a note as soon as it is received. Instead, he pulls down unread messages twice a day.

…. The problem, Russell said, is that there are only certain types of tasks that humans are good at doing simultaneously. Cooking and talking on the phone go together fine, as does walking and chewing gum (for most people). But try and do three math problems at once, and you are sure to have a problem. | Driven to distraction by technology