Take an average work day of a 'knowledge worker', someone whose main work day is around information. For example, a programmer, a stock broker, and other office workers.She probably has a cell phone, and an organizer. This is in addition to the land line she has on her desk. Of course she also has a desktop computer, or a laptop that she takes with her at home and on trips. On that computer, she must have email, e.g. Microsoft Outlook probably with immediate notification when a message arrives. She also has an Instant Messaging program, such as Yahoo Messenger, ICQ or MSN Messenger. She has client contacts on all of those means of communication, as well as family and friends too.An MSN Messenger pops up with a client asking for a quote on something. Meanwhile, her sister pops up on Yahoo Messenger asking her about how a relative is doing. An email notification comes in with a SPAM announcing mortgage rates. Another email message pops up about corporate news. Her office phone rings with a colleague asking her something work related. Outlook Calendar pops up a meeting reminder. Her cell phone keeps beeping about an SMS text message she earlier got from a friend. She also needs to check the latest news on the web, the latest comic strip, some corporate information and newsletters.Or someone at Starbucks with his laptop connected to the WiFi hotspot there, answering emails, using ICQ with people halfway across the world, and also answering the mobile phone, while talking to a co-worker who accompanied him there.Well, I think you get the idea now. Life is turning into a series of interrupted interruptions. How is someone supposed to do any work or enjoy some reading/research without being interrupted?The sheer number of ways that we can be contacted here and now are multiplying. Others have become like a 3 year old demanding a glass of water now.At home, things are not much better. There is TV with the ever 'useful' remote flipping channels around all the time. Even watching a movie is interrupted by 15 second commercial advertisments with fast moving shots and loud noise passing in for music.As a result, our attention span is shorter and shorter as time goes by. The only time for "peace and quiet" may well be on a remote lakeside with a book.Another aspect of the problem is the sheer magnitude of information overload that one has to deal with. Since our brain has to deal with a lot of simultaneous information coming in, it often drops some information or fails to adequately process them, rendering the sum of this overload much less useful than each information piece alone.Some have termed this life style of 'multitasking on speed' as hypertasking, driven by techngadgets, and life in the fast line. While people who do it tend to do things faster, they do not necessarily do them better. Don't ever equate "being busy" with "being productive".Finally, mainstream media catches up on this issue, with the New York Times article: "You there! At the computer! Pay attention" by Katie Hafner, February 10, 2005. This was also discussed on Slashdot.It is only natural then that those who are always on the job are stressed out, with adverse effects on their health. This stress costs the US economy 300$ billion annually, and books and seminars are being written on TechnoStress.Also read my article Life Interrupted: Stressed by Distraction for more.
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