PR Connection #8–> “Interruptions are Evil!”

The following is an article I found from the blog,

This blog is entitled, “Interruptions are evil” and having just got over mid-terms, I can totally vouch for this! I am always bombarded in work! I mean, I have: 6 classes; I live at home with and take care of my 94 year old Nana (g-ma); one of my classes is aerobics that I have 2/wk and I have an additional ten 1hr cardio classes I have to take; I bike to and from campus anywhere from 2-5 times EVERYDAY; I practically live with my best friend when I am on campus, so when I crash her place I gotta take the dog (miss mattie-fat-fat) on walks/runs….I mean I am just constantly exhausted! So obviously, when it does come time to work, all I can think about is how much I have to do, instead of focusing on the actual thing I need to be accomplishing.

Sooooo…..that is why I made this PR Connection on interruptions. Besides just the daily life stresses causes interruptions in your thoughts or abilities to accomplish tasks, you also have to consider other, up and coming factors- like technology.  The internet, cell phones and ipods, already have us constantly connected, but may they also have us constantly distracted? Take a look at this article and see what you think!

“Interruptions are evil.  Interruptions are unproductive.  I have closed my email account (and my door), turned off the Twitter feed, logged out of Facebook, logged out of IM, and silenced my phone, just so I could write a few hundred words about the scandalous amount of time absorbed by these distractions.

This is not a Luddite rant.  I love technology, love my email and Twitter and all that jazz. But let’s face it, very few of these communications tools could rightfully be called productivity boosters.  They are important but when we need to focus — on writing an important document, on studying, on a conversation — the beeps, rings, and pop-ups are fizzing away at our attention.

I brought this up in a staff meeting a couple of weeks ago.  I referenced the 2005 UC Irvine study that found:

“(Information) workers at an outsourcing company spent an average of 11 minutes on a project or task before they were interrupted. Once diverted, it took them 25 minutes to return to the original task.”

I acknowledged the attraction of being always-on. Even Linda Stone, who coined the term “Continuous Partial Attention,” called out this craving for connectivity:

“To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network … We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter.”

In other words, I embraced the impulse but also laid out a logical argument for checking email 3X a day, turning off IM unless you needed it, turning off the Outlook Alerts and TweetDeck pop-ups, staying logged out of Facebook to avoid impromptu chats with high school friends, etc.

They looked at me as if I had three heads.  (Sigh.)

You’re not multitasking when you open yourself up to constant distractions.  You are merely working inefficiently.

Multitasking suggests doing several things simultaneously — but when the Tweet Alert or Email Alert or IM window pops up, that’s not multitasking: you’re either going to check/respond or you’re going to continue on-task… if you are going to check/respond, you’re temporarily halting your current work; if you’re going to continue on-task, which you probably should, why would you allow yourself to be so easily distracted in the first place?

I’ll ask you to engage in the same experiment I suggested to our staff.

  • Turn off ALL alerts for IM, Twitter, email, Skype, etc.
  • Set aside 3 blocks of time to check/respond to email; say, 9 – 9:30am, 12:15 – 1pm, and 4 – 5pm.
  • Use Twitter, IM, Facebook, etc. in single-purpose mode, i.e., use the tools uninterrupted, and when you’re done, be done.  Let’s be generous and say that “engagement block” takes up 2 hours of your day — you social butterfly, you.

So that’s 2 hours, 15 minutes for email; 2 hours for Social Media engagement.  Assuming an 8–hour day (ha!), that leaves 3 hours & 45 minutes for “heavy lifting” – assignments including writing, research, meetings, etc.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  Yet we all feel so harried all day!  Maybe it’s because we’re trying to do all these things simultaneously, a little bit at a time; we get frustrated that we don’t seem to do any of it as superbly as we used to.

If this post resonates with you at all, try the experiment for 1 week.  See if it makes a difference in your focus, results, energy, and job satisfaction.

Looking forward to hearing about how you do!  Do you have any other tips, lifehackers?


About misslowoodward

loves a good bike ride, cooking a tasty vegetarian meal, planting flowers, walking the dog, and making art (and cupcakes!) :o)
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8 Responses to PR Connection #8–> “Interruptions are Evil!”

  1. aliciamd says:

    First of all, I want to say that I admire you for taking care of your grandmother. I couldn’t imagine having to be responsible for someone that needs me at this time in my life. In regards to the blog post, it definitely speaks to me. I am guilty not only of allowing technology to distract me, but to help me to procrastinate as well. I can’t count the number of times I’ve logged onto my laptop to do homework and I end up checking my Facebook, e-mail, bank accounts, and other sites. By the time I finish visiting these sites, I’ve wasted 30 minutes and don’t want to sit at the computer anymore. If I actually GET to my homework, I’m distracted by a text and then I spend a few minutes texting or talking on the phone. It makes me question whether or not I’m using technology to harm or help me.

    • Well, thanks! It’s rewarding taking care of my Nana ;o)

      I think everyone 7 years younger and older than us is stuck in the internet vortex, that is….procrastination central! lol. That is why I choose this because I was “stumbling,” when I should be doing work and it lead me to that blog and I was like, “yup….it’s a sign!” Haha….so why not re-blog it and make it seem as though my “stumbling” had a valuable purpose! ;o)

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  3. paigewalters says:

    Wow this is so great!! I can’t relate to how hectic your life must be because from the sounds of it you have A LOT on your hands. Sometimes I get SO caught up in things that I forget to take time to step back and put everything in order that needs to be done. This is my favorite part because it truly is a great idea:
    “So that’s 2 hours, 15 minutes for email; 2 hours for Social Media engagement. Assuming an 8–hour day (ha!), that leaves 3 hours & 45 minutes for “heavy lifting” – assignments including writing, research, meetings, etc.”

    I personally think that is a perfect amount of time even for a student (considering class schedules though). Thanks for posting Lo 🙂

    • Yea, I got a laugh out of that one too! I really don’t think I am NEARLY as bad as others out there. I mean I do Facebook check like once or twice a day and only Twitter when I update my blog, so it shows up on my blog page! lol….I never even had a Twitter account until this class! Other than that, unless I am working on school, I only “stumble” or play online games- but I usually don’t do either for longer than 15 minutes at a time, a handful of times a month. But, as you can see, with my workload, every 15 minutes count!! haha! I wish it didn’t….I need a break! Turkey-Day needs to hurry up!

  4. snarwold says:

    Lo I cannot agree more with this article! I never thought about just how much technology is a distraction until I read this article. Even now while I’m reading this article, and posting this comment, my phone won’t stop lighting up with new text messages; and I cannot help but check my phone everytime a new one pops up. I bet that I waste more time on my homework or anything in my life by checking text messages or phone calls. I think that I might follow what this article says and think about turning off my phone, ipod, and television before I do any homework. Maybe I’ll even get done with my homework a lot faster for now on without having any distractions around 🙂

    • I totally agree! As I was replying to another comment about this article, I was “Stumbling” when I came across this! Luckily, I can claim I turned it into work so I wasn’t realllly procrastinating- lol. I wish I knew where to find it, but I had also read an article once that was about how children in the generations below us are getting so used to watching interactive video/computer games for learning, that it is making it harder for them to concentrate when there is only a teacher in front of them and a chalkboard because their brains are used to working with other stimuli present. I started thinking about how our peers that are totally social-media-addicts may see a similar result as the children mentioned- in the sense that, if they are not always “connected” and constantly getting media-updates, or playing with an “app,” how might that affect their ability to have a “sit-down-at-the-desk-behind-a-c0mputer-all-day”- job and actually get REAL work done? We are training our society to have attention problems, technology addictions, and become bums! lol, me included!

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