There has been lot of discussion about how technology impacts work. I myself am guilty of contributing to the literature on this subject quite extensively, especially in our recent report, The Cost of Not Paying Attention: How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity, in which we estimate the cost of unnecessary interruptions and recovery time at $588 billion p.a.
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So, in the interest of science I decided to commence a short-term examination of how I spend my time, in this case one day, and how often I am interrupted. This week I've been working from home following a (relatively minor) kidney stone surgery, so my routine is a little different but one never knows what the day will bring. Here's how I logged my day.
08:30 - 09:00 Read e-mail and scan newspaper headlines - number of interruptions: 0
09:00 - 09:15 Review upcoming travel schedules - number of interruptions: 0
09:15 - 09:30 Make green tea for sustenance - number of interruptions: 0
09:30 - 10:15 Read industry news releases - number of interruptions: 4 (assistant notifies me of overnight letter; two phone calls asking how I am post-surgery; one IM from a colleague)
10:15 - 10:45 Review colleague's revisions to an industry survey - number of interruptions: 1 (telephone call)
10:45 - 11:15 Various internal conversations via telephone and IM - number of interruptions: everything was an interruption
11:15 - 11:45 Conduct interview of vendor for forthcoming article - number of interruptions: 0
11:45 - noon Preparation for meeting - number of interruptions: 1 (IM from west coast colleague)
Noon - 13:00 Meeting with colleague re our InfoAge conference - number of interruptions: 2 (both non-business related phone calls)
13:00 - 13:10 Break (make more green tea)
13:10 - 13:30 Attend internal conf. re practice development issues - number of interruptions: 0
13:30 - 14:30 Attend meeting with client - number of interruptions: 0 (was in "do not disturb mode" for IM and phone)
14:30 - 15:00 Read new e-mail during my lunch minute - number of interruptions: too numerous to count
15:00 - 16:00 Attend client meeting - number of interruptions: 0 (was in "do not disturb mode" for IM and phone)
16:00 - 17:00 Attempt to get Bluetooth to work on new laptop without success. Make fresh green tea - number of interruptions: 3, none significant
17:00 - 18:00 One-on-one call with client - number of interruptions: 0 (was in "do not disturb mode" for IM and phone)
18:00 - 19:00 Scheduled call doesn't take place. Decide to watch today's news on German cable to catch up (change of media helps) - number of interruptions: 1 (colleague trying to set up time to meet with me later today)
19:00 - 19:30 Internal conf. with analyst re industry survey - number of interruptions: 0
19:30 - 19:45 Review editorial plan for Basex:TechWatch for this week - number of interruptions: 0
19:45 - 20:45 Dinner - number of interruptions: 0 (first time no phone calls during dinner in a long time)
20:45 - ... Write my column - number of interruptions: 0
Today was actually unusual in many respects. Most activities took place in very compartmentalized blocks of time, as contrasted with what is often a more chaotic, ad hoc schedule. I took control of my environment by changing my state to Do Not Disturb when appropriate. This significantly reduced the number of interruptions that could occur; since I was working at home, the chances of a colleague walking into my office were also greatly reduced.
There was only one interruption that truly interrupted my flow (at 10:15), and it did take me about 10 minutes to regroup and and come back up to speed.
I'll document a few more days and discuss this in upcoming columns. Meanwhile, I'd be interested in hearing how you spend your day and how often you are interrupted. E-mail me (email@example.com) and let me know what your day looks like.