Monday, December 20, 2004

Life Interrupted

Very interesting article on how technology allows us to be interrupted more often and makes it harder to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Gloria Mark, a UC-Irvine professor, has been studying attention overload and multitasking among workers in a financial-services office. So far, she's found that the average employee switches tasks every three minutes, is interrupted every two minutes and has a maximum focus stretch of 12 minutes.

Closely related to trying to do two things at once is "task-switching," which is when you flit between functions. Meyer, who heads the University of Michigan's Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory, has tested this practice and says the results are clear: Constant nibbling from one task to another both slows and dumbs you down. It also is fatiguing and potentially harmful in terms of long-term health, and the cost of that split second you lose when you're talking on the phone and a traffic obstacle arises.
I wish they had done a study between those that are interrupted all the time and those that aren't and what the productivity difference between the two is. I bet those that put up barriers and don't allow themselves to be interrupted end up being more productive.
Roman philosopher Publilius Syrus himself uttered in 100 B.C., "To do two things at once is to do neither."
I like it. Well except for when I am walking and chewing gum. I think I can handle that much.
Blogs — personal Web sites where people share information, commentary and feelings — have filled part of the void, keeping their audience current on topics of specific interest. But as Brown says, if all your information is tailored to what you want to know, you may miss that which you don't know you want to know, and should.
Very interesting thought. Almost sounds Rumsfeldian. Gotta be on the lookout for the unknown unknowns, that which you don't even know that you don't know.
Daniel Hamermesh, a University of Texas economist, studied time-stress perceptions among higher-income households in the U.S. and four other industrialized countries. His study — "Stressed Out on Four Continents: Time Crunch or Yuppie Kvetch?" — found that the better off one is, the more he or she seems to complain about the time pinch. How can this be? Your opportunities and expectations grow as you grow wealthier, he theorizes, but time, which is finite, doesn't keep up.
At a certain point, time becomes more valuable than money. And yet those that are successful at work don't seem to want to exchange more salary for more vacation time. Or maybe they do but the work "requires" that they are there all the time.

via Pacific Northwest Magazine

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