You wouldn’t believe all the pieces I had planned to write this week. I “started” all of them, if thinking vague thoughts, surfing the net fitfully, and just showing up in front of my computer counts. On the other hand, very little was completed and I’m feeling blogger remorse, while staring a guilt-filled weekend right in the face.
Ironically, today was no better than the rest of this week – even though I started the day clicking through from the first listing in The Virtual Chase Alert, titled “Handling Information Overload,” to Paul Chin’s article “Unplugged: Information Overload Requires a Human Solution,” (Intranet Journal, Oct. 13, 2005). I agreed completely with everything Chin said, and I nonetheless managed to sputter and fritter away the day, going from topic to unfinished topic, distraction to distraction (like this superfluous post). Chin’s words have not helped me (yet), but I hope you’ll read them — especially if any of the following excerpts rings a bell:
“Think for a moment about how many times a day you break your train of thought or stop what you’re working on to check your e-mail, answer voicemail, Google something insignificant, or check an online news site. I must admit that I’ve been guilty of all these productivity infractions in the past — and most of the times I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it. It just naturally happened because it was there. I can even recall some instances where I interrupted my interruptions.”
“According to Dr. Donald Wetmore . . . the average person is interrupted once every eight minutes. Eighty percent of these interruptions are rated as having little-to-no value, creating approximately three hours of wasted time per day.”
in the middleof the distraction –an interruption
…………………………………………. by dagosan
“It’s alright not to be plugged in 24/7. I’ve personally improved my own productivity and ability to manage large amounts of information with this lesson. Some of my best articles were written in a quiet cafe with my cell phone off and laptop offline. . . . Maybe if we spend a little more time improving our own abilities to organize our tasks and digest incoming information we’ll actually improve the manner in which we use the technology. Unplugged shouldn’t have to mean unglued.”
update (Oct. 16, 2005): I just interrupted what I was doing to tell you to take a look at today’s NYT article on the new field of Interruption Science. See “Meet the Life Hackers,” by Clive Thompson, Oct. 16, 2005). It asks: “If high-tech work distractions are inevitable, then maybe we can re-engineer them so we receive all of their benefits but few of their downsides. Is there such a thing as a perfect interruption?”
update (Oct. 26, 2005): Over at MyShingle, Carolyn Elefant interpreted the NYT article “Meet the Life Hackers” to mean we can blame technology rather than ourselves when we seem to get nothing done, despite spending the entire day on the phone and answering emails. I think Greatest American Lawyer drew the more useful insight from the Times article, when he noted that we seem to get more done in the off-hours, when there are far fewer interruptions.
But, I think Chin’s “Unplugged” article has the more truthful and helpful message, when he states we do have to discipline ourselves to resist the interruptions that are unproductive or non-urgent:
- “If you don’t already possess the basic skills to manage information, technology might become a hindrance more than a help — it becomes a liability, a part of the problem. Not only will you be overwhelmed by information, you’ll have to wrestle with the software as well. “ and,
- “Information overload is a human problem that needs a human solution. Before we can design better software, we first need to understand and address our own abilities (or inabilities) to manage information and organize our work day.”
- “If you’re inefficient to begin with, no amount of technology will fix that. It will just mean you’re inefficient with an expensive toy. A true solution is based both on behavior and technology; it’s based on three factors which need to be addressed in proper order: a) Individual productivity and efficiency (behavioral); b) Corporate culture and environment (behavioral); c) Software applications (technology)
“When you rely solely on the technology to dictate the information you receive, how to put it to use, and when to put it to use, we slowly lose our own mental abilities to do the same. It’s a sort of mental atrophy similar to physical atrophy. If you don’t exercise your muscles they waste away over time. And if you don’t work on your own mental abilities to organize, prioritize, and focus the technology becomes a mental crutch. You stop running the technology, and the technology starts running you.”
I wish I could absolve myself for my inefficient use of technology (such as checking emails and weblog-referrers far too often), but the main culprit is indeed the guy whose image is reflected in the glare of my computer screen.