After an article published earlier this year in the New Atlantis, the discussion has flared up again about the negative effects that distractions and multi-tasking can have on productivity.
In response to the New Atlantic article, others have been chiming in. Nicholas Carr, whose blog we have mentioned here in the past, wrote “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” for the Atlantic Monthly. The Sunday Times this week published an article called “Stoooopid …. why the Google generation isn’t as smart as it thinks.” All of these articles complain that the way we access information is harming our ability to concentrate deeply and at length.
Anyone whose job involves reading, thinking and writing knows intuitively the cost of distractions and interruptions. Various recent studies have reported that interruptions eat up over two hours of the typical worker’s day, with people taking up to 25 minutes to get up to speed again on their original task if interrupted in the middle by a phone call or e-mail. Closing the door helps for a while, but you can hardly spend your days avoiding phone calls and e-mails.
The challenge in our jobs is how to balance the need to concentrate with the need to collaborate and communicate. I dream that one day I’ll find the perfect way to achieve that balance. Maybe if I track down 100 more productivity blogs (like lifehacker or 43 folders) and add them all to my Google Reader, someone else will stumble on the secret and share it with me. And if not, at least I’ll have plenty of short, easy-to-read material to distract myself with in the meantime.