A recent study funded by Hewlett-Packard determined that when office workers were asked to multitask with email and phone tasks, their IQ dropped more than 10 points. If you’re curious, that’s approximately 4 points more than a person under the influence of marijuana, and a worse showing than even the effects of a full day of sleep deprivation. This should serve as a warning to the IT community, as we’re obviously moving in the wrong direction–instead of more, faster, we should consider instead a philosophy espousing clear and focused. On applications, we all lie about our abilities to handle customer service and email and phone and requests from clients and co-workers and the boss and that last-minute assignment and oh, god there’s another email and I’m almost done with this network config and I still have to run the setup.exe and why isn’t the wireless connection working now… That way lies madness.
While the study proved to be a phony, there’s truth in the message. Americans share a culture where we have stayed on top by working harder and longer and faster than anyone else, but we also have incredible suicide and burnout and divorce rates as well. I personally advocate following most of Europe’s example and taking a month off for Carnival. Work your tail off for 11 months, then relax and realign during August or so. It’s gotten to the point at which we’re working so much that we can’t afford to take time off to go on the vacations we’ve earned. This is not a trend that can be reversed overnight–as long as corporations are focused solely on the bottom line, the workers will suffer. We use technology to enhance and enrich our lives, but it has become our master. Paradoxically, the solution is to do fewer tasks at once, thereby concentrating more fully on the task at hand and increasing efficiency. Do less, faster. Can you hold on for a minute? I have to get this email… [Britt Godwin]