Thursday, December 14, 2006

Multi-tasking: Enough already !

I wrote previously about the London study indicating multitasking had the same effect on the brain as marijuana. And, not in a good way.

Another study explains that drained, confused feeling we all experience... can't focus, lose details, fatigue easily - it's not iron-poor blood, it's technology, if not used well.

A study by FirStep Inc., Pennsylvania business strategists, says U.S. office workers get interrupted on the job as often as eleven times an hour. Cost to businesses? It's a staggering $588 billion/year.

Read more:

  • Add in the distracting lure of checking e-mails, surfing the Internet and chatting by computer, and workers interrupt themselves nearly as much as they are interrupted by others, experts say.
  • "With instant messaging on your desktop and alerts and e-mail notifications, you set yourself up for it," said John Putzier, founder of FirStep Inc. business strategists in Prospect, Pennsylvania.
  • A typical manager is interrupted six times an hour, one recent study showed, while another found the average cubicle worker is interrupted more than 70 times a day.
  • Other research has found office workers getting interrupted every 11 minutes, even as another study said nearly half of workplace interruptions are self-imposed.
  • A study by Basex found office distractions take up 2.1 hours of the average day - 28 percent - with workers taking an average of five minutes to recover from each interruption and return to their original tasks.
  • Still another study found a group of workers interrupted by e-mail and telephones scored lower on an IQ test than a test group that had smoked marijuana."
Feeling worse now?
A large part of the problem, and the problem with email in general is that we have no way to separate the critical from the comical. At first the sense of busy-ness and jumping from task to task might feel good. You're getting a lot done, staying on top of what matters, but there is something terribly seductive about being plugged in. Soon it turns into overload and as you keep pushing buttons, switching gears and jumping among topics, you don't realize your effectiveness drops rapidly.

Don't embrace the over-connected nature of technology if it is wearing you down. Control the intrusions, and enjoy greater satisfaction. Imagine: Start a task and finish it without switching to five or six other non-urgent interruptions.

Like any good habit, it takes practice. Give yourself two weeks over the holidays to break the cycle of always-on, and stop responding to every interruption. Let me know how it works for you, and remember you can ask questions anytime on Computer Clarity's forum at .

But remember... Just because it's up 24 x 7, you don't have to be.

Happy Holidays,