The thief of time?

“We can multi-task” said my husband and his father cheerfully.  “There are two of us”.

I’ve been doing some work recently on productivity and time management, bouncing some ideas around with miss dragonara about supporting colleagues in this area in a more practical/implementable way than some of the time management type of courses seem to achieve.  I’ve also been doing some one-to-one work with colleagues with over-full email inboxes (4,357 items was the record in the inbox alone).  This has all tied in with the 25 Things background of sources of information and things to do, as well as the work I’ve been doing on the JISC impact calculator and thinking about the effects of change management initiatives in this kind of area.

Last week this blog post from Marieke Guy got me thinking about “unitasking” and multi-tasking.  And today I picked up this article in the New York Times (and associated games to test your distractability and focus).  Ironically both came to my attention via twitter (thanks @mariekguy and @archivesinfo respectively).

Some interesting findings in the synthensised research on the effects on cognitive function of the consumption of media in the NYT article which personal observation would seem to bear out:

…multitaskers seem more sensitive than non-multitaskers to incoming information…

…the idea that information overload causes distraction was supported by more and more research

  • …people interrupted by e-mail reported significantly increased stress compared with those left to focus.
  • …Stress hormones have been shown to reduce short-term memory……
  • …some people can more easily juggle multiple information streams…

Here are my results for “distractability” and “switching costs”

So why blog about this? – because recordkeeping people have to understand the environment our “clients” are in and that we operate in ourselves.  Because doing any form of advocacy and/or change management requires this understanding.  And because it’s given me some more ideas for our course.  And because reflection and thought requires carving out time.


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