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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Distractive Technology Preventing Productivity

CNET News reports that people are becoming distracted by technology which interrupts their work, such as email and instant messaging. This keeps them from being able to concentrate and perform critical tasks. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates disagrees, though, blaming the issue on an inability to find information easily.

Driven to distraction by technology
Published: July 21, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT
By Ina Fried

>>The typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message or other distraction. The problem is that it takes about eight uninterrupted minutes for our brains to get into a really creative state....

The result, says Carl Honore, journalist and author of "In Praise of Slowness," is a situation where the digital communications that were supposed to make working lives run more smoothly are actually preventing people from getting critical tasks accomplished.

This perspective is certainly valid. While the strategies the article suggests are mostly intuitive (such as turning off email alerts), it makes sense that we should take time to cut out distractions and focus on our work. As Carl Honore says, "[I]t's possible to get too much of a good thing. As a society, that's where we are at the moment [with digital communications]."

Gates: 'Information overload' is overblown
Published: May 19, 2005, 9:54 AM PDT
By Ina Fried

>>REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Thursday countered the popular notion that workers are universally overloaded with too much information.

The problem, Gates said, is that the information exists, but it is not in one place and cannot be easily viewed in a meaningful way using today's software.

"You have to seek the information out... it is spread across different systems," Gates said....

Gates also showed off the Windows Desktop Search that Microsoft introduced earlier this week, demonstrating how it could show all his mail from "Steve" and even which documents were attached to those e-mails.

Mr. Gates' response seems somewhat irrelevant. The technology he suggests could increase productivity, but some of his solutions ignore the basic issue of lessening the volume of information we receive. His thoughts on email prioritization and internal search software and have merit, though.


  • At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Brad Meador said…

    Thanks for the pointer to this article. My comments on it here: .

  • At 7:09 PM, Blogger Adam Gentry said…


    I appreciate your crediting me with finding the article. Out of curiosity, how did you find my site? Your insights were an interesting read. Thanks again.

  • At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Brad Meador said…

    Given my company's interest in email productivity and technology (we build an organization add-in for Outlook), I've got several news feeds that search on email related keywords that I monitor throughout the day. Your post triggered one of those searches. Thanks again for the pointer.


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