In the July 7th issue of the Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz wrote about the formation of the Internet Overload Research Group (Unloading Information Overload). Apparently the internet is so distracting to the average technology employee that Microsoft, Google, IBM and Intel have banded together to try to figure out how to use technology to help keep their workers focused!
Who knew? It’s not only people with ADHD who get distracted! In fact, Crovitz reports that once a person is distracted from a task by an email or a phone call, it can take almost a half an hour to refocus on a task! Now add ADHD into the mix, and no wonder it can seem like time flies when you are on the computer.
People with ADHD are often experienced at using tricks to keep themselves focused. Here’s some of the ideas these companies are exploring. See if any of them sound familiar to you.
Prioritize: Apparently Microsoft has been trying for years to develop a software tool to prioritize email. A low tech solution is to group your email by topic. Then, instead of opening all of your emails as they come in, you scan down your list, and just open the ones that pertain to the project or subject you are working on at that time.
Look away: A Google engineer recently created a tool that will turn your email off for 15 minutes at a time. (Keyword: Google Email Addict). The idea is you turn off email and instant messages for short periods of time and you get more done. This is so easy to do, why is a software tool needed? Many people turn off email and instant message services while they are working on something – especially when writing. If you don’t have little alerts popping up in the corner of your screen all the time, you won’t be tempted to procrastinate when you get stuck by starting to surf one of them down.
Turn it off: Intel and IBM have tried setting aside Fridays to limit emails and other interruptions. The idea is to replace interruptions with focused time on thinking. Wired Magazine’s founder, John Battelle, instructed his staff to stop sending emails during the weekend. Basically, even major companies realize that we don’t have to instantly respond to every request. The world keeps on spinning even if you take a half day away from text, email and cell to get a project done!
Choose wisely: The University of Chicago Law School has had to block the Internet from the classroom. Well, duh, if you are surfing the web, sending emails or texting, do you really think you are learning anything in class? You may as well have skipped that day! If you are in a class or meeting with someone, it just makes good sense to focus on the person or task at hand.
Nice to know that the rest of the world gets distracted by technology, doesn’t it? What have you done to keep your focus on school or work and not get distracted by texting, RSS, Twitter or phone calls? Please leave a comment about what’s worked for you.