Sunday, June 29, 2008

Is Technology Hurting Your Productivity?

Quick question: When you do laundry each week, do you come home each night and wash a load or do you wait until Saturday or Sunday, combine your loads and wash everything at once?
Hold that answer for a few seconds.
Today, I'm here to talk about email, and how the technology is actually killing productivity at businesses across the globe. It's not the technology (I couldn't live without it), it's the people using the technology.
How can email hurt productivity: Here's an example:
Sally comes into work and starts a project. At the bottom of her screen she sees her emails coming in. She stops and begins opening them--all day long. Some take her to the web (where she ends up reading her startup cnn page for the latest breaking news before making it to her destination page), other emails get her on the phone making a follow-up call, while others just get her laughing. She bounces back and forth between her projects and these constant interruptions.
Here's the deal: When it comes down to it, only a few of those emails really need immediate responses. I know, I know...your job or your employees' jobs are so important that every email needs immediate attention. Yah, right. If that's the case, you should have someone assigned to do nothing but answer incoming emails. Wake up. This lack of productivity can have an impact on your profits.
The bottom line is that Sally has not been very productive. For one, she's spent her day being interrupted every few minutes, and secondly, she's been multitasking all day.
Multitasking does not work. Let me repeat that again, just in case you were talking on the phone or looking at your BlackBerry while you are reading this: MULTITASKING DOES NOT WORK.
Need proof: Watch the boob driving his car down the freeway with a cellphone in one hand and a cigarette and ice cream cone in the other hand (I actually did see this). It doesn't work.
When we start a task, we need our full attention on it so the job gets done right. Do you want a surgeon reading the paper and answering email when he takes out your appendicts? I don't think so.
If you are multitasking, your cheating your clients, employer, your wife, your son, your daughter, your mistress (whoever you are spending time with).
Here's the solution: Sally comes into work, checks her email (all of her messages) at 8am. She responds to her messages. She checks again at noon before lunch and responds. She checks one more time at 4pm and responds. This system allows Sally to focus on her tasks without interruption through the day and allows all email senders plenty of time to respond and get a responce. If something is life threatening, they can call (yes, just like we used to do back in the old days) Sally.
Turn off that God-awful automatic email message that pops up on your screen.
I truly believe misuse of email is costing employees hours of productive time each day. The same can be said for cell phones, BlackBerry's, web, etc.
Back to the laundry question: Most of us wait to do our laundry at one time, thus combining many loads. It is much more efficient that interrupting our lives each night for one load. I just wish more of us would use the same philosophy when it comes to technology.
In America we are all very proud of our hours worked. We usually brag to everyone about how many hours we put in and how much of a true hero we were because we worked all vacation. Listen, as an employer, I'd rather you worked 7 productive, quality hours than 12 unproductive hours any day of the week.

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