Category — Mobile Web Access
During the TT races on the Isle of Mann, my personal race favourite, Guy Martin, gave an extremely agitated interview at the end of the second practice race. He complained that a red flag had been waved by a marshal, causing him and the rider behind to slow down. Martin claimed that this distraction had disrupted his riding for the next three miles, costing him valuable seconds in the race.
What interested me was the precision with which he calculated the amount of time it took to regain focus, multiplied by the speed at which he was travelling (128 miles an hour). The notion of distraction to recovery time really interests me.
Yesterday I set myself numerous tasks, hardly any of which were completed. Why? Because I responded to several unanticipated email requests that swallowed up most of my day.
In his Business Computing World blog: “7 Tips for increasing personal productivity” David Lavenda, VP of social email company harmon.ierefers to the hour a day lost by US employees through office distractions. The vast majority of these distractions come from email and social media and the rest from physical and phone interruptions. Rini van Solingen calculated that if a person is engaged in a creative task and he is interrupted by a phone call, it takes 15 to 20 minutes for him to recover his train of thought.
Dr. Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University, researched the impact of email on our ability to focus on tasks in progress. He estimated that, in a worst case scenario, an employee might have just three and half minutes between each email interruption, leading to increased fatigue and reduced productivity. He found that it requires a person an average of 64 seconds to recover his or her focus after being interrupted by email. This equates to more than eight hours a week spent recovering our trains of thought and doesn’t include other communication channels such as instant messaging, texts and social media.
The harmon.ie survey estimated that these interruptions are costing businesses $10,375, per employee per annum, based on the average employee earning $30 an hour.
It’s not just businesses that are suffering. BBC Breakfast this morning interviewed a family who use their Smartphones at the breakfast table. A holiday snapshot featured them in a café looking at their own Smartphones rather than engaging with each other. Unsurprisingly, the mother commented that it was detrimental to family communications. This interview coincided with the OFCOM report that one in three UK adults now owns a smartphone, with 89 per cent of the survey sample reporting that they used mobile email. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14397101
Dr Jackson proposes that we look at emails in batches, while David Lavenda suggests that we set firm boundaries on when we are on and offline. In this way we can give different tasks and people the focus that they deserve.
As someone who’s checked into work emails from a tent at the foot of Helvellyn and subsequently drafted and emailed an article from a car travelling up the A9 to Nairn, I’m certainly not decrying mobile email. It is a fantastic technology that has liberated me from the nine to five of office life, as well as the miseries of commuting. I’m simply acknowledging that sometimes we need to ignore the red flags, step away from the machine and refocus on our priorities for the day. What are your favourite suggestions for dealing with email distractions?
August 4, 2011 No Comments
A trend that has been emerging among my circle of friends. People who used to call, text, or email me now send a FaceBook message.
I know that this trend is driven by the fact that many of my friends now own iPhones, HTC Desires, BlackBerry and Nokia smart phones. It’s just as easy for them to log into Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and send everyone a message while they’re travelling to work as it is to send the same message via mobile email.
Why am I remarking on this?
Because if I’m in the middle of a work task and an email arrives from a friend, I’ll read and respond. If I’m in the middle of something and an email arrives with a link to a Facebook message, it goes onto the back burner.
Why? Because I have to log in to the social network, find the message and respond. While I’m there I know I’ll see at least half a dozen other messages that I’d like to respond to.
Those two extra steps make me conclude, “This will take time, I’m likely to get distracted and start looking at fun stuff, so I need to wait until after work”.
As a rule, I will leave Twitter open in the background while I’m working and regularly check and respond to Tweets and direct messages from journalists, clients, analysts and colleagues. For Facebook, I tend not to, because it puts me in the wrong frame of mind for work: a little like taking a laptop to a pub with loud music, rather than working from a cafe.
In January FierceMobileContent reported Garner’s prediction that by 2013 more people will access Web sites from their phones than their PCs, with 1.78 billion PCs jostling for Web access against 1.82 billion mobile phones. In other words, I’m going to be getting more friends contacting me through websites that they’ve accessed from their mobile. So I’d better get with the programme.
Quocirca analyst, Rob Bamforth, has also commented on the growing problem of keeping on top of email, IM and social media and come up with an interesting suggestion: Filofax 2.0.
Just as architects have long recognised the existence of the “desire line”: that path that humans will instinctively carve across lawns, ignoring the pathways laid in stone by the building’s designers, I’ve come to the conclusion that people should be able to reach me however they want to reach me.
My task is to determine when and how to respond.
November 10, 2010 No Comments