Ina Fried wrote an interesting article on CNET News.com regarding the problems with information distraction from technology such as email, instant messaging, PDA’s, etc.. This quote from Dan Russell, a senior manager at IBM research, made me chuckle:
After concluding three years ago that he was becoming a slave to
e-mail, Russell decided to put his foot down. These days, he takes his
time replying to messages. All his responses say at the bottom: "Join
the slow email movement! Read your mail just twice each day. Recapture
your life’s time and relearn to dream."
I agree with Russell, don’t become a slave to email (or any other technology for that matter) and by all means set aside time during the day for email rather than constantly checking it. That said, while well thought out replies are the hallmark of a good email manager, I also think that deliberately waiting to reply to email is a mistake. Yes, research has shown that by waiting to respond to messages you condition the sender to not expect you to be at their beck and call; but there is a significant amount of time wasted re-reading messages that sit in your mailbox awaiting disposition. Once you’ve given your attention to a message, go ahead and do something with it (reply, file, create an appointment or task). If you want to delay the reply, change the sent message options to set delivery for a later time.
The article gives a survey on page 2 that tests whether you are too distracted by information and also lists some stop gap measures to help mitigate the distracting impact of technology. If overwhelmed, the tips are good for regaining some sanity, but the reality is that this flood of data and the technology that delivers it are necessary components of today’s information society. As we noted in a previous post, studies have shown that devices such as Blackberries can have a positive impact on our ability to complete our jobs. A good strategy for integrating information into your workday and exploiting it’s usefulness is required to be an effective worker. If you feel the need to unplug as the article suggests, I recommend you take some time before you plug back in to think through how to manage the data in your life more efficiently.
[Thanks to Super Web Tech weblog for the pointer to this article.]