Study: Email, IM are Productivity Killers

Paul Lilly

Quite frankly, we're surprised this one even warranted a study, but in case you didn't already know, firing off emails and swapping instant messages can be a serious time killer and cut into your productivity. But is the effect on your work even greater than you thought?

"Our findings suggest that even seemingly brief and inconsequential on-screen pop-up messages might be impacting upon our efficiency, particularly given their frequency over the working day," said Dr. Helen Hodgetts, co-author of the study at Cardiff University.

Rather than rely on a survey, Hodgetts, along with colleague Professor Dylan Jones, instructed volunteers to work on a simple task of moving different sized disks between three rods. Short on-screen interruptions were given, and even when they lasted only five seconds, the researchers found that it took people longer than normal to finish the next step of the task.

"The interruption breaks our cognitive focus on the task in hand, so we have to work out where we were up to and what we were planning to do next before we can resume the task at our original speed," explained Dr. Hodgetts.

We suppose that's one spin to put on the research. The other? Perhaps doing work and filling out TPS reports are the real time killers, cutting into our Peggle time and whatever other de-stressor we might have going on.

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