In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.
In a digital world of infinite distraction, it is “single-tasking” — shutting out interruption instead of facilitating it — that will save us. What’s the alternative? Checking e-mail once every five minutes, then every minute, then every second? It’s not a scalable coping mechanism.
The world doesn’t hiccup, let alone end, if you check e-mail twice a day instead of twice an hour. If it does, it usually means that your work culture rewards overwork to counter its own ineffectiveness. This is predicated on burnout and not a game worth winning. The next time you get the Crackberry urge, consider the option of being productive instead of being busy. Or, if that’s too abstract, consider grabbing a joint instead — you’ll probably get more done.
Years ago I worked with a CEO who said that any email that wasn’t sent directly to him was automatically deleted. He didn’t read "cover your ass" emails that copied everyone in the place. That alone more than doubled his productivity.
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