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October 20, 2005
I don't trust your attention
I’ve been meaning to blog about a simply great article in the NY Times, Meet the Life Hackers, as I am a fan of the interruption tax, but I keep getting interrupted.
When [Gloria] Mark [from UCI] crunched the data, a picture of 21st-century office work emerged that was, she says, “far worse than I could ever have imagined.” Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What’s more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task. To perform an office job today, it seems, your attention must skip like a stone across water all day long, touching down only periodically.
Yet while interruptions are annoying, Mark’s study also revealed their flip side: they are often crucial to office work…
Focusing on the cost of interruption is one of the better design principles, not just for productivity applications, but all those social software apps clamoring for attention. The answer is not automation, but using the social network as a filter and pushing things down to asynchronous modalities.
My 11 minutes are almost up. Really, it’s a great read, and for now I’ll point you towards Jon Udell…
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