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Tech interrupts us every 3 minutes, how to stay productive

A new study reveals workers are distracted every three minutes by technology, how do we stay productive? We share tips as we reveal the wrong answer to this question.

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Workers are distracted by technology

On Happening Now on Fox News today, Dr. Gloria Mark at the Department of Informatics at the University of California at Irvine was interviewed about her new research that reveals the average American worker is interrupted every three minutes, and it may take as long as 23 minutes to get back on track. Dr. Mark said that with the proliferation of information today, and the unprecedented access people have to more people and information, the question is not how distracted we are, but how could we not be distracted?

We’ve written about Dr. Mark’s work previously, as she is well known for her research on digital distraction. Earlier this year, Dr. Mark took people off of email, and discovered that email obsession is not only unproductive, but actually has health implications, as the heart rate of a frequent email checker is in constant high alert mode, meaning it does not rest or increase like a normal heart should. Workers taken off of email were more productive and focused, with the implication being taken now that the same applies to social media.

Dr. Mark told Fox News that the distracting nature of social media is “an open question,” adding that “the thing we [do] know is that stress goes up as we multitask.” She noted that too much stress impacts productivity, and that while workers need some stress to keep them going at work, they shouldn’t be so stressed that their health is impacted.

How do we maintain sanity? Here’s the wrong answer:

Dr. Keith Ablow is a long time Fox News contributor and writes for Good Housekeeping and while he has an impressive background, his approach to Dr. Mark’s study proves he is out of touch with technology and modernity. Let’s break down his entire segment, point by point:

“Sooner or later, we’ll take holidays from technology,” taking designated hours, days, or weeks away from technology, as “this level of stress is only going to increase.”

He’s right, the level of stress is going to continue increasing as our culture adjusts, just as the introduction of cars stressed out drivers until user behavior and the technology reduced the stress levels. He is wrong, however in that “sooner or later” holidays will be taken, as many people years ago adopted a technology-free zone for weekends, or after dark, or refusing to take a smartphone on vacation or to relatives’ homes. Old news. Next?

Dr. Ablow continued, “The fictionalization of our lives wherein everybody thinks he or she is a reality tv show, posting (partially fictitious, by the way) Facebook profiles, tweeting about everything you do, like you’re a rockstar, which you’re not, and thinking that you’re so important that you better check the email every second while at work rather than getting any work done.”

Okay, breathe. First, if this is his impression of social networking and email use (aka technology), he obviously has a teenager he is basing his entire theory on. I have a teen as well, and yes, they are glued to their phone, and while I don’t believe my child is so self righteous they must post everything about herself, Dr. Ablow or his teen obviously does. Most businesses use social media now as what I would consider a traditional staple in their marketing arsenal, and the NASDAQ posting stock quotes, the Pope tweeting prayers, doctors live tweeting surgeries, and artists sharing their works on Facebook is far from “reality tv” behavior.

In response to the statement from the anchor, “but we don’t want to miss antything,” Dr. Ablow responded, “You know what? Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein didn’t have email or tweeters, or whatever, Twitter, and they did just fine for us.”

Seriously? You’re opining based on innovators of yesteryear? Imagine if they had email and a web community wherein they could all communicate their ideas and expand them, and if they had been able to do so, would they have mastered more innovations in a shorter period of time and actually been able to do more before they died? We’ll never know, but you get the point, it’s a bunk theory that because they didn’t have modern technology, they did just fine – they could have achieved more. Maybe.

In closing, my favorite portion of Dr. Ablow’s statement is that technology “is distracting, conveys people away from themselves. It’s a drug and it’s no different than any other drug of abuse. I promise you, people say ‘this is bad for me, I don’t want to do this anymore,’ and they’ll tweet that out. It’s a formula for disaster.”

I recently heard of people that did so many internets that they began convulsing and died in an alley, and someone was busted up the street and charged for posession of internets with the intent to distribute, and they’re going to be locked away for life. I met a girl recently that had done so many tweeters, her cheeks were sunken and her teeth were falling out and her husband had recently been incarcerated for overdosing on Facebooks and almost beating her to death. Please. It’s addictive and many studies not cited have proven as much, but it is not the exact same as every drug of abuse.

So what is the answer? How do we maintain our sanity?

Dr. Ablow is often right on, he is extremely well educated and well informed, just not on this particular topic – he must have been the only person available. Although I didn’t scream at the television (maybe I did), many ways to maintain sanity and avoid distraction came to mind, here are my quick tips:

  1. If you read one tip out of all of these, make it this one: turn off push notifications. Duh. Go to the settings in every social network and do not let it text you or ping you every time someone updates or tags you. Only look at notifications when you have the time to go to that social network or email service.
  2. Time block. Easy. Make a policy with yourself that you won’t look at Facebook after 5, or you won’t use Twitter until after lunch, you’ll do X for two hours, Y for two hours, Z for 10 minutes, etc. We’ve written about curing corporate A.D.D. with this atop the list of methods.
  3. Use a service like Notify Me Not to help you walk through getting rid of all of your junk email and keeping focused on real people in email, and you can mass unsubscribe from all junk email right now. If you’re on Gmail, ToutApp analyzes your gmail habits to help you pinpoint your timesucks.
  4. Use technology to battle technology and boost productivity. Any.do, Asanda, Due, and Do are all popular task management tools to keep you focused.
  5. Email too distracting? Install the free Inbox Pause tool which takes away the email interruptions while at work. Email getting redundant? Check out Yesware.
  6. Get extreme, and set up Strict Pomodoro on your browser, which blocks any site you designate from being used for certain time blocks so you can stay focused on your actual work, then you gain access to them for a few minutes. Genius.

There are endless ways to keep your day focused, we’ve been covering them for years, and using the excuse that the internet is a drug, so you just shouldn’t do it is completely unfeasible in today’s world. Stay focused, use technology to battle technology, and if you want to dig deeper into productivity tips, read years worth of tips, tools, and tricks to help you navigate the waters.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. phone services

    December 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Technology particularly social media still has many good uses today. They should just be properly used and in a moderate way.

  2. Jessica DelBalzo

    December 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Lani, thanks for the humor AND the useful tips (ie: not the ones Dr. Ablow gave out).  <a href=”https://www.kminstitute.org”>Knowledge management</a> is a huge roadblock for businesses and individuals who are overcome by technological interruptions in the workplace, but these modern tools absolutely have their place in the office.  Can you imagine how much business would be lost if we completely avoided social media or email?!

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Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Business Finance

Delivery startups skim customer tips to pay employees #wth

(FINANCE) Grocery delivery startups are flourishing, but stealing from employees isn’t a sustainable move…

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Popular grocery app Instacart has been using customers’ tips to pay its guaranteed $10/hour rate to employees, rather than using the tips as, you know, bonus money paid to workers on top of their normal pay. The way that you’d expect something called a “tip” to work.

According to the report, “Instacart confirmed that when its payment algorithm determines a driver should be paid below that guaranteed $10, the company uses the customer’s predelivery, ‘up front’ tip to cover the difference. The ‘up front’ tip is automatically set to 5% on the Instacart app; if the customer removes the tip, and the payout would be below $10, Instacart itself covers the cost.”

In this system, the customer’s tip for the deliverer subsidizes the company’s commitment to its employees. Once the change to the tipping policy was announced in workers began complaining about how it affected their earnings in 2017.

Even though the app’s customers have taken to social media to compare the policy to wage theft, the practice is actually legal. Because Instacart and other apps in the gig economy classify their workers as contractors instead of employees, they do technically still get 100 percent of the tips in their wages (even if the company doesn’t supply the same percentage of the wage they’d give the worker without the customer throwing in).

This kind of payment structure may be familiar to you if you’ve ever working in restaurants, bars, or another establishment that uses subminimum wages.

Sadly, Instacart is not the only grocery app that uses a dodgy tipping system. Shipt, DoorDash, and others have similar tipping policies. And they aren’t interested in changing them after all this week’s backlash.

If you’re concerned about making sure that you’re supporting the contractors for these grocery delivery services, some of the contracted workers have requested that you provide the tip in cash instead of tipping through the app and activating its algorithm.

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Tech News

How blockchain has the power to improve democracies

(TECH) Blockchain is changing the face of democracy with a magical fix to basically all the problems.

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blockchain

Despite our best intentions to be active, informed citizens in democratic practices, not everyone has time, figuring out how to be engaged can be confusing, and reps don’t always vote how you want. Plus, confidence in Congress is hilariously/depressingly low with all the scandals and thinly veiled corporate interests.

Well hooray for the future, because now we have blockchain technology to propel us out of the murky waters of representative democracy and into a more efficient liquid democracy.

A liquid democracy platform, also referred to as delegative democracy, has voters select a personal representative as a proxy for their vote. In our current set up, elected representatives vote for things on your behalf, and the best you can do other than running for office yourself is call in and ask them to vote your way.

With a liquid democracy, everyone votes on each piece of legislation.

You can assign a delegate to vote on your behalf by proxy when you’re not available. Personal representatives can be removed and reassigned at any time unlike set terms for elected officials.

The delegate can even select a proxy for their votes, creating a directed network graph, where voters and politicians are connected on a publicly verified blockchain. Anyone can be selected as a delegate as long as they’re a legal resident of your jurisdiction registered to vote.

Quick refresher course: Blockchain is essentially a decentralized digital list of records with timestamps and transaction data information. Each individual record is considered a block, which is cryptographically secured and resistant to modification.

Blocks contain a cryptographic hash of the previous block, creating a chain. Once recorded, data cannot be altered without network majority consent. As an open, peer-to-peer distributed ledger, blockchain is a permanent and efficient way to record transactions.

Used by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 for cryptocurrency exchange to create Bitcoin, blockchain has now expanded to the healthcare industry, banking, and now potentially democratic practices.

David Ernst, one of the leaders of the liquid democracy movement, founded United.vote, a platform established to get the ball rolling. The site helps connect voters to personal representatives, and provides a scorecard that tracks how elected politicians’ votes compare to constituents wishes.

“What if instead centralizing authority into the hands of a few strong men, we expanded political power to many, many more voices,” Ernst suggested at the 2017 CyFy conference.

His plan to expand power is liquid democracy via the United.vote platform, which he notes is backwards-compatible with our current system. Ernst is also running as an independent candidate for California Assembly District 19.

He was partially inspired by the Flux Party’s 2016 campaign in Australia, who tried to implement an issue-based direct democracy similar to liquid democracy. Although the party only got 0.15 percent of the vote nationwide, Ernst stands by the idea.

A liquid democracy via blockchain would theoretically increase accountability, participation, and representation.

Through direct participation and personal representation, elections would no longer be necessary.

Instead, voters simply choose someone to represent them, and can select a different person for individual issues. Delegation can be changed at any time, so you’re not stuck with someone if they end up being a total weasel.

So far, only a little over one thousand people have signed up for United.vote, but Ernst stated, “If I got elected, but only 20 people were actually using [the platform], I would still follow those people.”

Although the concept may be ahead of its time (and possibly a wishful Utopian dream), Ernst is confident that these changes can fix democracy.

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