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Tech Makes Working Harder 239

Ant wrote to mention a C|Net article exploring U.S. workers' productivity. People say they actually accomplish less now than they did a decade ago. Research blames technology as the culprit. From the article: "Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically ... We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing ... It's harder to feel like you're accomplishing something.'"
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Tech Makes Working Harder

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  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Friday February 24, 2006 @08:54AM (#14792106) Homepage Journal

    Well, without technology, I'd be unemployed, so in that sense, I guess I really am working harder because of it.

    We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing.

    This sounds more like a self-discipline problem than a problem with technology to me. When I have an important task to work on, somehow, I manage to concentrate on it. It's called prioritization, and it's something that people have had to deal with since a naked ape was put in charge of making sure the fire stays lit.

    • by ewg ( 158266 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:02AM (#14792159)
      Prioritization implies de-prioritization, by definition. You must be allowed to ignore less important issues for a little while in order to concentrate on more important ones. Whether or not that's the case depends on your organization's culture.
      • by Cat_Byte ( 621676 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:20AM (#14792256) Journal
        I agree. Right now I have almost 190 things in my ticket system. If I were to concentrate on one for 4 hours, I would have about 30 people calling me asking for a solution and wondering why I haven't made any progress. 30 bad, 1 good doesn't look good to management.

        I just try to find something that takes a long time to complete, start it, then multitask on as many others as I can at the same time. Prioritization to me means finding a way to kill 10 birds with one stone.
      • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:24AM (#14792289) Homepage Journal

        You're exactly right, and I think that's one of the problems in America today: Businesses are exerting more and more pressure on its workers to accomplish more in less time.

        But U.S. workers have to some extent let them get away with it. Once some people went on call 24x7 with their pagers, then cell phones, then Blackberries, it put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to do so. In spite of the fact that no one's really doing their job very well, no one's pushing back and saying, "Enough!" And, of course, the vast majority of CEOs and upper-level managers are either too stupid to recognize what's happening or they just don't care as long as they get their fat bonus.

        I don't know what the answer to that problem is, but as far as my job goes, when I'm working on something really important, the pager goes off, the instant message service is put into "Do not disturb" mode, the cell phone stays on but will mostly be ignored, the work phone is forwarded to voice mail, and I focus on the task at hand. I don't have an office door, but people who try to talk to me have been told, "I can't talk right now, I'm working on something very important. I'll come see you later."

        If you're trying to get in touch with me, it can be irritating, but if yours is the problem I'm working on, you'd better damn well believe that I'm your best friend.

        If more people would do that instead of just sucking it up and trying to process six things at once, not only would they do their job better, but they would start seeing people respect them more as you showed positive results.

        Or you may get fired for blowing off the wrong person, in which case you have my sympathy and I sincerely hope that you manage to find another job where management is just a little less stupid.

        • But U.S. workers have to some extent let them get away with it.

          I think there is some truth to this. On This week in Tech ( http://www.thisweekintech.com/ [thisweekintech.com] ), the most recent Inside the Net podcast has a very interesting interview with the founder of a website by the name of 43Folders ( http://www.43folders.com/ [43folders.com] ), where Merlin Mann discusses this very issue.

          People often feel buried because they have to spend so much time tending to their "connectedness" - email, text messages, voice mail, etc - mostly becaus
        • But U.S. workers have to some extent let them get away with it. ... no one's pushing back and saying, "Enough!" And, of course, the vast majority of CEOs and upper-level managers are either too stupid to recognize what's happening or they just don't care as long as they get their fat bonus.

          I know /.ers are generally pretty anti-union, but as a note, this is what unions are supposed to do. Unfortunately, unions have not figured out how to modernize the mentality they acquired fighting for every inch on th

    • by lawaetf1 ( 613291 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:06AM (#14792174)
      I don't think it's fair to dismiss the decline in worker productivity as being solely attributal to a lack of prioritization. Even if you *know* which task is the most important you still have to context switch to process and prioritize incoming information.

      Phone rings -- "yes, hello? .. no.. sorry.. yes.. i understand.. no i can't help you with that right now... ok.. i promise i'll look at it in a second."

      [back to task]

      Instant message -- "Dude!!! HRPROD22-NA01 is down, WTF?"
      "I know, I know, but I'm working on something else right now, it's next in the queue, i promise you."

      and so on and so on, ad nauseum. Context switching causes a performance hit for computers and humans. Gone are the days when shutting your office door gave you a semblance of privacy.

      In a grander sense, many conjecture that we're no longer producing works of genius with the same frequency as was the case pre-Internet / telephone for the very reason that the finite capacity of our brains is now being pulled in ever more directions. From a simple neurological perspective, the melody processing part of your cranium will not become as prominent if you're constantly engaging other aspects of your mind -- buying coffee from starbucks instead of having it brought to your room, talking on the phone with your agent instead of being left alone to compose, conducting interviews instead of simply focusing on getting the next piece perfected. Bad examples perhaps but I think the idea is right on.

      Too much fuzz.
      • "...the finite capacity of our brains is now being pulled in ever more directions... Too much fuzz".

        Very true. And it's not a new problem, either:

        "Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify."
        - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
      • Phone rings -- "yes, hello? .. no.. sorry.. yes.. i understand.. no i can't help you with that right now... ok.. i promise i'll look at it in a second."

        [back to task]

        Instant message -- "Dude!!! HRPROD22-NA01 is down, WTF?"
        "I know, I know, but I'm working on something else right now, it's next in the queue, i promise you."


        Look. I don't mean to be harsh, but either the person in charge of the servers has to be more competant (as in making sure they stay up) or they need to hire more staff.

        If the IT desks phon
        • I agree with the parent. It seems like there is some bigger issue if you have 2 (I'm assuming from the gp post) production critical issues at the same time. I'd also add that technology gives you another benefit here. You know HRPROD22-NA01 is down? Then send an email out to some list that includes all the people this has an effect on. They'll all know immediately that there's a problem and you're working on it without each person wasting their time and your time telling you about it.
      • Pshaw! Learn to put first things first. You are making excuses.

        Don't answer the phone unless you have to. Caller Id is wonderful for this. Most of the time I am in meetings or talking to people and I dump the phone calls into voice mail with one touch. I don't do instant messaging. It's one more interrupt source and I don't see the need. You don't have to YIM! That's all under your own control, don't abdicate that control for fashion! Put the Crackberry away!
        • It's not always an option to "not answer the phone"! And even if I can selectively ignore calls, I still have something on my tesk that goes BEEP and pulls me out of my buddha-like concentration. And if you can turn your phone off, well, gimme your job. That's also great that you can not IM but in my company not using IM is akin to announcing that you'll be working from home from now on.
          • My wife used to complain that I concentrated so hard it gave her headaches, once my former boss walked in and was talking to me while I was working on sometime critical and technicaly demanding and I didn't even hear him for about 30 seconds. This guy absolutely could not stand to hear an unanswered telephone ringing. I've told my wife many times if she didn't look at me, say my name and get a rational response, I'm probably not hearing her.
      • When I was charged with taking multiple tech support people at different offices around the country and assembling them into a single help desk, I tried to get management to realize that there would need to be a huge change in how workflow was organized.

        There should be a first tier that receives calls, logs them, prioritizes them, deals with the simplest ones and passes the more difficult ones to tier two/three/etc. That would relieve tiers two/three/etc from having to stop every five minutes to "route inc
      • I don't think it's fair to dismiss the decline in worker productivity as being solely attributal to a lack of prioritization.

        What decline in worker productivity? All this story said is that people feel less productive and less successful. Objective measurements show that worker productivity is rising [epi.org].

        I think this quote from the article hits it on the head:

        Even if productivity increases, it's constantly outpaced by those expectations, said Don Grimme of GHR Training Solutions, a workplace training c

      • Context switching causes a performance hit for computers and humans. Gone are the days when shutting your office door gave you a semblance of privacy.

        Ringer volume or DND on a phone. "Do not Disturb" or "Exit" in an IM client. Plain old leaving email until there is time... All of these emulate the closed office door. Not to say that these can always be used, but if you make yourself look busy, people tend to leave you to it. If you never let a call go to voicemail, leave your IM client Available and assig

        • "Ringer volume or DND on a phone. "Do not Disturb" or "Exit" in an IM client. Plain old leaving email until there is time... All of these emulate the closed office door. Not to say that these can always be used, but if you make yourself look busy, people tend to leave you to it. If you never let a call go to voicemail, leave your IM client Available and assign yourself a priority to respond directly to incoming email, rest assured you will be bothered."

          None of these actually work. Never underestimate the pe
      • In a grander sense, many conjecture that we're no longer producing works of genius with the same frequency as was the case pre-Internet / telephone for the very reason that the finite capacity of our brains is now being pulled in ever more directions.

        Oh that's crap. For as long as people have had records of the accomplishments of people before them, people have been saying "we don't produce works of genius like we used to". It was never true before and it's not true now. The problem is that whatever age

        • It is good to know that my efforts will be appreciated in about 200 years.
        • I hear you, but don't *fully* agree.. Certains works have proven timeless (Mozart) whereas much of what we create today gets swallowed whole in a generation or two. I doubt a little bit that my grandchildren will listen to The Dead but they will still know Mozart's name and practice his music. I stand by my original point -- fewer and fewer people have the peace and quiet, and general isolation necessary to create something magnificent. All our children are now taught from day one how to multi-task like
          • Certains works have proven timeless (Mozart) whereas much of what we create today gets swallowed whole in a generation or two.

            But most of what was created in Mozart's time was swallowed whole in a generation or two. First off, we don't still listen to 1780's popular music. More than that, we don't even listen to most of the art music from that time (would we really remember Salieri's name if it hadn't been for "Amadeus"?). As with all ages, the best of our art music will survive -- Babbit, Cage, Crumb...

    • by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:07AM (#14792180) Journal
      Think back to the 50's and 60's, then look at today. Compare the advances in technology, one would expect that with the advances in technology, we'd be working less and have more free time. Kinda gone the opposite way hasn't it.
      • by MO! ( 13886 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:18AM (#14792241) Homepage
        Sorry, that's not "technology" failing, quite the opposite - it's fulfilled that dream all too well. The problem is the rush to increase Productivity in the workplace. So instead of 40 employees working less hours and having more free time, we have 10 employees working longer hours doing the work 40 employees did then. I'd have to say the reason we feel overworked and less productive is because we've hit or are at least approaching a limit in this increased Productivity race. You can only reduce the workforce so much before those that remain can no longer keep up with business needs. That's not because technology has failed, it's because it's succeeded and is being expoited to an extreme degree.

        • That's the most intelligent thing I've read in quite some time.
        • So the average soldier can carry about 100lbs on an ongoing basis. Once, many moons ago, the rifle, ammo, water, and a change of underwear added up to about that ammount. Then some egghead came up with plastics, nylon, and composite materials, and all of a sudden the same ammount of kit ended up weighing 80 lbs instead. So what happened? Well....someone somewhere said "wait a minute...the average soldier CAN carry 100lbs on an ongoing basis....". So on to his kit pile they threw a collapsable shovel, a
    • I'd say it's not so much a prioritization problem (I've been working on one project for over a year) but the fact that everyone uses a computer to accomplish ANYTHING. I work for a bank and everyone has a computer. (I'm a developer so I have three.)

      My point is, if anything happens to a persons computer or the network, work just stops cold. To add to the grief, most people don't have the skills or security access to fix those problems directly.

      Yesterday some idiot changed an IP address on a Novel serv
    • This sounds more like a self-discipline problem than a problem with technology to me.

      We still can consider how to reduce the technology contribution. Given the apparent numbers of people involved, any improvement is likely to be big.

    • What is that quote, "Computers allow us to do, in half the time, tasks that were completely unneccesary before computers..." Think powerpoints...
      But I will say, for complex projects, it is nice to have computer generated Gantt and PERT charts, which used to take forever to create before computers (so I am told).
    • The corporate obsession with meetings must be something to do with it too...
      Nothing like settling down into a task then getting an alert: "Meeting in 5 minutes", and it's usually to discuss something completely pointless that doesn't particularly concern you ;)
    • What's the most bitter enemy of concentration in an office?

      What destroys focus with an effectiveness that inspired a Dilbert cartoon(*)?

      What is so dangerous to time management that "important" people hire layers of assistants to protect themselves against it?

      Straight from the nineteenth century, it's that piece of Victorian "technology", the telephone.

      (*)"This is your anti-productivity pod. It's equipped with a small device that rings every time you try to concentrate."

      IM is far better from a productivity p
    • I think tech is just a scrap goat. Work is harder now because employers expect us to be working faster because they are cheap bastards as are consumers.
  • Feelings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @08:56AM (#14792122)
    The study surveys people. The people feel like they get a smaller percentage of their work done.

    This is just the press being stupid again.
    • A big A-MEN to that.

      But, even if that was not the case, "productivity" is up because even if people as individuals are accomplishing less (which I doubt), gains from tech accomplish more than the alleged loss of human input.

      • They're getting more done. They're getting more work assigned to them.

        If I get twice as much done and 3 times as much assigned to me, I'm going to feel like I'm getting a smaller percentage of my work done, even though my productivity has doubled.
    • Would you rather accomplish more and feel scatterbrained and frustrated or accomplish less and feel satisfied and useful?

      • My feelings are largely under my control. So I'd rather accomplish more and feel OK about it.

        Actually, I'd rather get paid a lot regardless of my accomplishments and feel rich.
    • This is just the press being stupid again.

      There it is, in an 8-word nutshell.

      Of course, this is an excellent idea to post it on /. : "Let's take this blame-tech article and drop it on the tech-lovers!" Ooooooh, look at all the clicks!

    • Back it the olden days, it was good to go home and feel like you had accomplished all the day's work you set out to do.

      Now, it's a sign you are a slacker who didn't tale on enough work in the first place.

      Values have changed, and the appearance of frantic activity is much better for your career than the actual amount and quality of work you get done, and you get rewarded for it regardless of whether someone else has to clean up the half-assed mess you made.
  • One quote I have on my white board:

    Learn the difference between busyness and accomplishment.

    I don't know who said it but I appreciate it.
  • Or maybe.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @08:58AM (#14792135) Journal
    Or maybe it's the ear we live in. We're pushed so hard (must be ready 24 hours a day, while living three lives at once), that we're so tired/fed up with it we work less. Think of it like an army, if you march for a week without proper rest the last 3-4 days will be much slower than if you marched 6 days then took a rest on the 7th.

    We push ourselvs untill our wills or body breaks. Theres no reason to care for typing in spread sheet numbers or carrying boxs, so we just do it and end up with half a job done.

    Maybe if work was more rewarding (forget money, it's no real reward in this sense) and we weren't expected to be on call 24 hours a day, we would get a good rest and work three times as well (hence productive).
    • Or maybe it's the ear we live in.

      Oh man, your's is filled with technology? All I have to work with is wax, and a giant Q-Tip that keeps poking me while I sleep....
    • We push ourselvs untill our wills or body breaks. Theres no reason to care for typing in spread sheet numbers or carrying boxs, so we just do it and end up with half a job done.

      This is very true of coding. I can certainly code at a faster rate if I allow that I'm going to make a larger number of errors, or I can slow down, make fewer errors, and perhaps take longer to get the job done. I find that bug fixing can be more time consuming than actually coding, so I tend to code slower, trying to ensure all th

    • I've long thought I'd be more, or at least no less, productive in a 30 hour work week than my current 40. Perhaps it's different for people who love their job enough to dedicate their life to it. I don't particularly love my job nor do I hate it. I come home and try to spend some time on my various other interests before I get too tired to stay awake. It's very frustrating to force myself to go to bed so I won't be dead tired at work the next day knowing I'm cutting off the only time I have to move my ot

    • Or maybe it's just another marketing campaign masquerading as "research". Is it really suprising to have a study that says technology gets in the way of productive work, when it's "conducted for Day-Timers, a maker of organizational products"

      They should just have a template title for articles like this:

      Study funded by maker of Widgets points to pressing need for more Widgets
  • by wolfemi1 ( 765089 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @08:58AM (#14792136)
    If people get more communications (like email) about work, they will feel like there is more to be done. The article and summary both say that people feel like they are less productive, not that they actually are.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @08:59AM (#14792142) Homepage Journal
    Its regulations.

    Seems that anytime something high profile goes down all sorts of new regulations come piling on and those filter down very quickly.

    the amount of paperwork I have to go through to move even simple projects through work is ridiculous. We estimate that the average developer spends almost 15% of their time on paperwork that was never needed or required before.

    About the only way technology slows me down if it does is that there are more ways for colleagues to interrupt me.
    • You forgot some, the biggest regulations of all are copyrights and patents. Alot of times they have the effect of causing people to struggle, constantly reinventing the wheel and constantly causing people to be in a rats race to get the next invention so that a competitor doesn't patent it and lock everyone else out for 20 years.

      It reminds me of a story I like to tell my peers. Back in 1990, I learnt how to use UNIX and Windows both at the same time. As time went on, I added to my UNIX skills while the n
    • ". . . the amount of paperwork I have to go through to move even simple projects through work is ridiculous."

      Um, did you forget to put the TPS cover sheet on again?!
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:01AM (#14792152)
    When you think back a few years, finding out something that took horribly long to compute was a task. Lots and lots of people with calculators and/or even "old" computers, who punched cards and fed it to huge machines, then they got a result and after lots of sweat, breakdowns and tears, they finally got a result. They then went ahead, recalculated it, formatted it, a team of statistics professionals were put to the task and finally, you had some revelation and you were proud. Mystified how you could even make it possible.

    Today, you pick your sample, toss it into some kinda machine and go for lunch. You come back, your results are neatly printed and statistically perfectionized on your desk.

    The result is probably the same. But which would make you feel more satisfied?
  • Yeah, but with technologies like cell phones, laptops, broadband, Blackberrys - we can take the work we didn't finish and do it at home. Oh, wait ...
  • That touching up a PowerPoint presentation for the 17th time is "accomplishing something"...
  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:04AM (#14792169) Homepage
    The tech part is entirely neutral in the equation.
    The real issue here is management. Because information is available, management often believe they do need it.
    Often, that's pretty far from the truth. People spend so much time now gathering useless figures, processing those, and presenting them that they often don't bother to take care of the issues that don't readily fit into numeric analysis, or worry about whether they're introducing noise into the signal (which only needs to be filtered out again later).
    What people need to do is take a step back and determine what they really need to do their job, and get a process in place that'll automate delivery of the figures they actually need to them when they're needed.
    That way, they'll likely find that the job does increase in efficiency.
    • Great comment.

      Often what I notice in my work is that you get mgmt that are just screaming for the information, with no apparent recognition of the benefit of a process to create the information. Therefore, everyone is scrambling to create the same crap for the same mgrs, and it's a complete clusterf*ck.

      I think it's a characteristic of 90%+ of managers to assume that the people who are actually doing the work are incompetent, rather than to assume that they are professionals who will get the work done.

  • Not just that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:04AM (#14792171) Homepage
    Not only do I feel like I actually get LESS done with tech....I also feel like more is expected of me. Its like....ok, we gave you this computer that can do all these things, now do it in half the time it used to take. Not to mention that since tech definitely does increase efficiency in some area...suddenly they dump even more work on you to fill up whatever free time you might have had their. So instead of being able to be more thorough and spend more time with a project thanks to the free time the technology enables, instead in leads to us getting rushed through it more and more.

    Not to mention that tech has only added to the problem of employers thinking they rule your life...expecting you to stay late every night and work on weekends.

    Its funny...but I'm sure I'm not the only one here who wishes for simpler times when life was a bit slower.

    • As Frank Herbert once had Leto II say (I'm paraphrasing, as I couldn't find the exact quote): The problem with computers is that when we have machines that think like a human we begin treating humans the same way we treat machines.

      Or in the last episode of BSG: Admiral Adamma: What was his flaw as a commander? Apollo: He only understood machines. Command is about people.

      Management has lost sight of this. They think of their employees as computer operators and not computers as tools that the employees us

  • by Paua Fritter ( 448250 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:06AM (#14792179)
    "Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically ... We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing ... "

    +1 true.
    I had to post a reply to this even though I was right in the middl
    • I know what you mean... I rarely have time to do anything but take a little chip out of a computer and run.. no time to grab some nics or video cards!

      Always have to be off to the next score!
  • At a knowledge management conference, I saw the results of a study of how programmers spend their time at a well-established, very large and profitable software company. They spent 75% of their time using Outlook dealing with emails. Less than a quarter of the time went into using a development environment or testing tools.

    The problem is that too many people can reach too many people with too little effort. Every incoming email, IM, or call demands attention and attenuates accomplishment.
    • "They spent 75% of their time using Outlook dealing with emails. Less than a quarter of the time went into using a development environment or testing tools."

      While your core point is probably on target, programmers are a bad example. If a programmer is able to spend 25% of his time on actual development he is doing pretty good. Not because of distractions, but simply because the mind would overheat. There are occasion hardcore sessions where one mind melds with the machine for hours solid but they probably d
  • There is virtually no way to make a rational and reasonable argument about this. Technology is not just about worker productivity it is about how transactions are done between businesses. Money flows electronically between banks; ERP systems help schedule work orders, raw materials purchase, plant employee scheduling; Databases track client interactions, purchases, bank transactions...the list is long. People are not disciplined in their use of time and waste it sending/replying to meaningless e-mails, read
  • by qwertphobia ( 825473 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:11AM (#14792201)

    And furthermore, I think that society today ...

    What? One billion songs? wow! I still gotta get that new Santana CD. Let me see if it hit Amazon yet. Oh, cool, there's a sale on Digital cameras!

    Now, where was I?

  • For *actual* work. Email, IM, phone for talking all you like *about* it. If the job doesn't arrive in the system it *isn't* work which needs to be done. It works for pretty much every case where one person asks another to do something.

    e.g.
    http://freshmeat.net/projects/requesttracker/ [freshmeat.net]

    Oh and systems like these fit really nicely into workflow frameworks too.

       
  • The problem, as I see it, is that instant communication often results in managers demanding instant responses. While they can bring up reports quickly that simply pull in the facts and figures stored in a system, asking the analysis to work that way is ridiculous. Yet it happens.

    On many projects I have seen lately, there's an expectation, particularly of tech workers, to be able to come up with something immediately. If a project is two weeks' worth of work, then two continguous weeks is plenty of time to d
  • More ways... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zubinjdalal ( 816389 )
    ... to slack off. Agreed that technology causes us to be distracted more often... but it also speeds up certain tasks in the process. Now if you don't want to work...
  • There are just way too many distructions. As a designer/developer I think I produce actually more everyday, but I learned long time ago to filter out the distractions that the technology is creating. I stopped using the IMs, chatrooms long time ago, actually 6 years ago. (To be honest I have ICQ running again for the past 2 months, to talk to my cousin, who is in Israel, but I limit the talk to about 20 minutes a day.) /. is another place where I spend at least 20 minutes a day. Then there are a couple o
  • Tech has nothing to do with it. Lots of people seem to love to say "Oh, I'm so busy, I'm rushing everywhere". It makes them feel important, it gives an impression of being invaluable to the company and most of all it's a defence mechanism - "I couldn't possibly do that project as well, just look at how rushed I am". Most of the time when you actually analyse the work they are doing, it's no more than the relaxed guy who just sits and slowly plods through his work.
    • Mod parent up. Most of the 'busy, harried' people are actually busy-bodies who like to stick their noses in others' work, thus slowing the OTHER people down.
  • Businesses that have moved to 24-hour operations, bosses who micromanage and longer commutes add to the problem, they said, while downsizing leaves fewer workers doing the work of those who left. ... Finally, there's a trend among companies to measure job performance like never before.

    These are key words in the article, if you put aside the technology which works no worse and probably better than a decade ago. You can squeeze the juice from an orange but at some point there is no juice left to squeeze. H
  • I remain skeptical. While this CNet article matches what researches have been studying for years, for example, this paper from MIT published originally in 1991 [mit.edu], it's only measuring people's perceptions, rather than hard economic data. The economic indicators of the last 5 years have shown huge boosts in worker productivity in the US (ignoring last quarter's results [bloomberg.com]). That directly contradicts the CNet article.

    Yes, the paper from MIT makes the case that there are many factors which can increase a person's productivity, and our gains in productivity could have come from other sources than technology, but the question remains: is this true, or simply a matter of perception?

  • The problem is that technology is used to 'automate' outdated, meaningless, inefficient business processes. Rather than using technology as an enabler, businesses view it as a panacaea; instead, they should take a tabula rasa approach and re-evaluate ALL business processes to see if they are still relevant to prevailing business conditions. Doing this first and then automating gives you much more bang for the buck. Simply automating a brain-dead procedure falls under the rubric of 'premature optimisation'.
  • So true (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bioglaze ( 767105 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:50AM (#14792550) Homepage Journal
    So true. Context switching wastes clock cycles, but pre-emptive scheduling is still a must. I have tried to learn to manage my own time from operating systems studies. I still have a lot to learn. Especially IRC is bad. Just have to check new messages frequently. These things can help to improve workflow:

    - Use laptop, without network connection, so you can find a quiet and comfortable place
    - If you listen to music, make sure it's pleasant
    - Think about room's lightning and improve it if necessary
    - There's on/off button on your cellphone
    - Noisy computer distracts your mind
    - Keep only tabs related to your work open in your browser
    - Human mind takes ~15 minutes to concentrate on a subject, so that's a good minimum running time of a process
    - Meditation and yoga can help on concentration
  • I agree.
    Ten years ago there was no /. and I got a lot more work done.

    Plus, between the emails, IMs, cell phone calls, text messages, and all the friends blogs and news sites I have to keep up with, who has time for work?

    Of course, some people have a job really is about communicating with people. For them these advances might make them more effective. But for a person with a job that requires spooling up a complex problem and long periods of concentration, an interruption filled environment is death.

  • I generally do one thing at a time, do it as well as I can, and finish it -- then handle all the little things that piled up, then move on to the next thing. It does mean that it might be a couple of days until I answer your email, but I get things accomplished, and deliver working software on a regular basis. Continually thrashing around, switching from one task to another, is a very unproductive way to work -- at least for me -- I find getting "into the zone" takes at least 1/2 an hour. And sometimes do
  • Technology has been a part of sea changes to business, work, and life - no doubt. However, I'm not sure that technology has been the cause of these changes. I believe that technology is woven into the evolution of business and work, yes, but I don't think it is everything. Perception, it seems, is everything.

    During my father's lifetime (and before), even big cities "shut down" at a given time of night. Further explained, stores (other than bars and such) closed after dinner time (and on most of Saturday a
  • I couldn't disagree more. Where I work technology is a godsend. But the point that has to be looked that most people have noted in their points is that we already have a core process down that encourages productivity and nothing else. I manage half a ware house and half the daily inventory being done there, but usually I get an email a day if that. Every advance in technology we see is just a refinement of what we've already decided upon, better database, better equipment, better facilities, better partners
  • ... otherwise the expectations will be increased.

  • Think back many years to what the typical office job was in the 50s, 60s and even 70s. If you were in management, you wined and dined clients/vendors, and basically conventrated on your management job. There was an entire clerical staff to type your (paper, sent-by-regular-mail) memos, answer your phone calls and act as your gatekeeper. Computer generated reports (when they existed) came to you on green-bar paper for you to read at your leisure. It was expected that things took a lot longer to get done.

    If y
  • The problem is that these days we get interrupted a lot more than in past. Think how intrusive the phone, cell-phone or IM are. Email is not nearly as bad, since it can be ignored.

    Tom DeMarco has a nice book about this called Slack [systemsguild.com].

    By being busy we fool ourselves into thinking that we are being more efficient.

  • Just think of the legions of typists that companies used to employ, just to send bills to customers. Each one had to be typed by hand, and more importantly, if you made a mistake, you started over from the beginning.

    Just think of the legions of accountants and bookkeepers that companies used to need, but have replaced with spreadsheets. And nevermind the billing...

    Just think of all the people that used to be hired as clerks to file and retrieve paperwork, but have been replaced by databases and search funct
  • Technology gives me communicaton for me due to my speech and hearing impediments. I don't think I would do well without IM, online chat, forums, etc.
  • In other news...People have very short memories. We are WAY more productive with tech. We are also safer. At my job, I wrote a training tracking and notification system. Prior to the system being designed, company policy was that each employee in a department needed to be trained on all safety equipment propor to working with that equipment. They also were required to retrain on a specific on going basis. This required so much work to keep track of that it simply was not done. Then to audit the job
  • by davecb ( 6526 ) * <davec-b@rogers.com> on Friday February 24, 2006 @12:19PM (#14794282) Homepage Journal
    Once upon a time, my director had a financial planning application that was supposed to make his life easier... but it was a bear to use.

    A study some years later showed that the people who used the financial planner the most had the worst financial performance! We figured it was because it was taking up the time they should be spending on all the other kinds of planning, not to mention the rest of their work.

    --dave

  • The effect of this one act has been dramatic. My productivity has dropped by 75% in the last 3 years.

    I used to:
    develop a rough tech document.
    estimate hours.
    develop code.
    test code.
    install code.
    do any emergency fixes for problems that turn up in production since none of our testing environments match production.
    emergency fix code.
    install code.

    Now I:
    propose the project or recieve request for project from business analysts
    create "swag" hours estimate for project.
    fill out a form for pmo
    wait for 2-3 weeks. If I
  • At least where I work. The systems put in place get in the way more than help. The culture around here is that software will define our process. That's a very wrong way to think. You should define process, and get software that helps make that process more efficient.
  • It would be nice if we could measure the FACTS instead of what people think. Asking people if they think they are more productive might be misleading, because as the article points out, technology makes you feel like you're doing less by allowing you to move quickly between projects. But how to really measure this? It's a manager's nightmare.

You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish. You can tune a filesystem, but you can't tuna fish. -- from the tunefs(8) man page

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