Monday, October 17, 2005

Life Hackers

Intriguing piece on multi-tasking and interruptions in the workplace in this weekend’s NY Times Magazine featuring one Professor Gloria Mark and her work on soft technology.
When Mark 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.
As a chronic multi-tasker, even pre-hi-tech workplace, I have to say that I share some of the habits researchers found many of the most prolific and nerdiest geeks shared. One, I use my email as a day timer. Anything of import, anything that needs filing, printing, etc., goes there first. And two, I simplify by using only one media program, one music program, and no other repetitive devices such as palm pilots, ipods etc. She who understands bookmarking has a leg up. I try to only do things once. I love multi-tasking, but not “repetitive tasking”.

Having said that, I’ve noticed a certain amount of techno-fatigue since acquiring my new laptop, setting everything up, working out the bugs. Wireless is a real drain. Recently I noticed something I’m calling “lost folds”. Information gets folded into our systems, but inefficient filing and updating, especially when one upgrades systems, leaves one susceptible to whole slices of one’s work/life being lost. As strange as the methods we use to acquire information these days, are the ways we lose it. Strange swaths of information and experience lopped off. Random. Seamless.

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