Image by Urs Steiner, licensed by CC.
Being busy has somehow become a badge of honor. The prevailing notion is that if you aren’t super busy, you aren’t important or hard working. The truth is, busyness makes you less productive.
When we think of a super busy person, we think of a ringing phone, a flood of emails, and a schedule that’s bursting at the seams with major projects and side-projects hitting simultaneously. Such a situation inevitably leads to multi-tasking and interruptions, which are both deadly to productivity.
David Meyer from the University of Michigan published a study recently that showed that switching what you’re doing mid-task increases the time it takes you to finish both tasks by 25%.
“Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” Meyer said. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”
Microsoft decided to study this phenomenon in their workers and found that it took people an average of 15 minutes to return to their important projects (such as writing reports or computer code) every time they were interrupted by emails, phone calls or other messages. They didn’t spend the 15 minutes on the interrupting messages, either; the interruptions led them to stray to other activities, such as surfing the Web for pleasure.
“I was surprised by how easily people were distracted and how long it took them to get back to the task,” said Eric Horvitz, the Microsoft research scientist behind the study. “If it’s this bad at Microsoft, it has to be bad at other companies, too.”
Read the full article "How Being Busy Makes You Unproductive" at Forbes.