The beginning of the New Year saw laws in the USA making texting while driving a car illegal. Some laws also ban cell phone calls. Legislators are realizing that the distraction from texting and cell phone calls while driving is dangerous and are now considered as comparable to driving while intoxicated with alcohol. Maybe we should take these new laws as a signal to modifying our work lives as well.
To many who read this I will likely come across an out-dated old fogie who is out of touch with the digital and Internet age. But first hear my case before you dismiss me as irrational.
I have been productive in my career due to, I believe, my ability to contemplate and focus without interruption. I continue to be amazed by what some describe as the addiction to “always be on-line.” When R.I.M.’s BlackBerry system failed for several hours, the news media was quick to write stories about people who impulsively kept unsuccessfully accessing their e-mail. (See Bereft of BlackBerry, the Untethered Make Do.)
Almost everywhere one goes, people are heads down clicking and scrolling to an illuminated screen on their smart phone. When they awake, people access the Internet before brushing their teeth. When one’s plane arrives at the gate, what do many passengers immediately do? How critical can it be to receive or read a message a few hours or a day after the message was sent?
There are other signs that our society may be excessively pre-occupied and driven to distraction with being connected. An example is a recent news article titled To Deal with Obsession, Some Unfriend Facebook. It describes how some youth are making a pact to resist the frequent lure of the login. They realize they are obsessed with being and staying connected in real-time or near-time, and their grades and once normal life is suffering.
I realize we are in unchartered territory when it comes to instant messages and social media, such as Linkedin or Facebook. Isn’t there a downside to losing our personal time to think or do other productive things? When one is captive to messages, often from people we do not or hardly know, what is the impact to ourselves? How important is a Tweet that someone is now washing their clothes?
Research has revealed that in reality it is impossible to truly multi-task. The research, which I wrote about in article Can Performance Management Multitask, But the Human Brain Can’t?, cites that a human can only focus on one thing at a time, and any interruptions slows productivity.
Note to self. I may be offending some readers with my line of reasoning. If I interact less, then I may not bore others, I maintain my planning ability, I don’t have a false sense of my importance, road travelers are safer, and strangers next to me don’t have to endure my conversation.
Why is this relevant to enterprise performance management and devising better business analytics? Improvement requires ideas and innovation. Realizing those ideas can be then be stretched out over time. They are not instantaneous. Solitude is a virtue and essential to gather one’s thoughts and perspective.
I suggest we lighten up. Think more. Be more creative.
To have no smart phone, no laptop and no electronic calendar(only Outlook for meetings) keeps me more productive. No kidding.
Might by true for more people.
Thanks for confirming the point I was making in my article. I have received several e-mails agreeing that people are getting overly distracted by being “always on”, and this reduces their productivity.
I was not implying to not use communications technology, but just not all the time. Take breaks for work that requires concentration.