I have learned a new word, thanks to Claire Tompkins at ProductivityGoal.com. Frazzing. Coined by Massachusetts psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, frazzing is short for "frantic multitasking´. Though the particular phrase is new to me, the idea behind it is one of my most passionate beliefs. People are trying to get more done by doing three (or thirty) different things at once, but that just means that they are able to do nothing particularly well. Technology that is supposed to make us more productive by keeping us connected is only enhancing this problem.
A study pointed out by Tompkins shows that office workers who were surveyed were interrupted ever 10 and a half minutes on average. That´s just annoying, but it´s also a significant problem. When people are interrupted the study showed that it took people 23 minutes on average to get back to their original task. The problem is much bigger than just mere annoyance. Knowledge workers lose, on average, 2.1 hours per day to interruptions. If you assume a reasonable hourly wage of $21, then you are looking at a cost of these interruptions of $588 billion per year. That´s more than the GDP of Argentina.
Those are all just statistics, but the biggest thing I take from that is that we absolutely, positively have to focus on eliminating as many interruptions from our day as we possibly can. We tell ourselves that we are doing more when we stop working on our main task for a minute in order to check our e-mail or answer our phone or send an instant message. We simply aren´t. The cost of that interruption is almost always greater than the gain we get from responding to the interruption. Taking the time to truly consider what we need to do and how we are going to accomplish it, then focus completely and entirely on doing that, will make a tremendous impact on what we can get done. And we can always check our e-mail and phone messages when our task is done. They´ll still be there.