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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 - she has 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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How to personalize your site for every visitor without learning code

(TECH NEWS) New tool from Proof lets you personalize your website for visitors without coding. Experiences utilizes your users to create the perfect view for them.

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experiences welcome page

What if you could personalize every step of the sales funnel? The team over at Proof believes this is the next best step for businesses looking to drive leads online. Their new tool, Experiences, is a marketer-friendly software that lets you personalize your website for every visitor without coding.

Using Experiences your team can create a targeted experience for the different types of visitors coming to your website. The personalization is thought to drive leads more efficiently because it offers visitors exactly the information they want. Experiences can also be used to A/B test different strategies for your website. This could be a game changer for companies that target multiple specific audiences.

Experiences is a drag-and-drop style tool, which means nearly anyone on your team can learn to use it. The UX is meant to be intuitive and simple, so you don’t need a web developer to guide you through the process. In order to build out audiences for your website, Experiences pulls data from your CRM, such as SalesForce and Hubspot, or you can utilize a Clearbit integration which pull third-party information.

Before you go rushing to purchase a new tool for your team, there are a few things to keep in mind. According to Proof, personalization is best suited for companies with at least 15,000 plus visitors per month. This volume of visitors is necessary for Experiences to gather the data it needs to make predictions. The tool is also recommended for B2B businesses since company data is public.

The Proof team is a success story of the Y Combinator demo day. They pitched their idea for a personalized web experience and quickly found themselves funded. Now, they’ve built out their software and have seen success with their initial clients. Over the past 18 months, their early-access clients, which included brands like Profitwell and Shipbob, have seen an increase in leads, proposals, and downloads.

Perhaps the best part of Proof is that they don’t just sell you a product and walk away. Their website offers helpful resources for customers called Playbooks where you can learn how to best use the tool to achieve your company’s goals be it converting leads or engaging with your audience. If this sounds like exactly the tool your team needs, you can request a demo on their website.

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German company funded to become the WhatsApp for employee messaging

(TECH NEWS) Chat apps have been a staple for online communication, and a new one from Germany is hoping to take the top spot from WhatsApp.

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chat app Flip

It’s insane how many chat programs there are out there.

There’s iMessage/texting, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Messaging, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and so much more. But one thing I think is pretty comical is chat trends within businesses and how this kind of software has affected the market.

To give some background, about 2 decades ago, chat was incredibly popular. You probably remember AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). This was the first online chat tool I used to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues.

In the late 90s all the way through the 2000s, chat was the thing – all the cool kids did it. Of course, most programs were pretty primitive in the early years, only offering group chat and direct messaging.

Despite their popularity, though, chat systems had a brief moment where they faded into the background, which lead to an eventual closure of otherwise popular chat software. Most recently, AIM, which had been holding on by a thread for years, closed after 20 years.

Now, it makes perfect sense why AIM closed. They weren’t able to compete with other devices that had similar built-in programs, like Apple’s iMessage. Eventually, desktop chat’s popularity became a thing of the past. But now we’re seeing a mass resurgence of chat features as businesses and marketers-alike realize the immense power chat software has in a variety of applications.

For example, in the newest wave of online retail selling (eCommerce), which has quickly become a flooded market, companies are looking to differentiate themselves by not only providing your average support (email and phone) but also by including customer-facing chat software, like Zendesk Chat (previously Zopim) and LiveChat, for their customers.

eCommerce is growing in popularity pretty quickly, and given recent trends where businesses are focused on immediate assistance, it only makes sense why they’d consider utilizing chat to assist their customers, and in turn, earn more sales.

But, although this background gives you some color to the history of chat and messaging software, that’s not exactly what this story is about.

In recent years, especially during the explosion of startups, it has become incredibly clear that companies can easily become tangled in their own company structure.

Sometimes companies hire off shore, sometimes they hire remote workers, and sometimes they simply have departments that are so separated, they never communicate with each other. For example, when I worked at Apple in Austin, Texas (2013-2014), in a large building with 4 floors and thousands of employees spread out all over, it was critical that I kept in touch with my immediate co-workers and other departments.

Apple’s solution (an elegant one at the time) was to suggest we use their native messaging software, iMessage, but even then, I noticed some serious drawbacks. Aside from the many missing valuable features, such as the ability to connect productivity applications (or any applications for that matter) and create more robust, specific group chats, the tool just didn’t feel like something we should be using in a corporate setting, let alone a startup.

And that’s around the time I started to notice new chat software, like Slack, enter the world – software that would improve communication between departments and co-workers, as well as offer the ability to connect important tools via API and, eventually through “app marketplaces”. The shift to app marketplaces was a great one, too, because before it existed (created in 2015), you had to be a developer to make apps work with the tool.

Because of all of this functionality, and the extreme need to stay in touch with all sorts of people that relate to your company or job, Slack has quickly become the chat provider. So much so that it’s now basically a household name and is being expanded to support like-minded communities, like what’s shown on the Medium.com site. In fact, I can confidently say that chat has come full circle in its popularity, for all sorts of applications.

But with Slack growing at an exponential speed (it’s in Silicon Valley’s hall of fame as the fastest growing business app), I’ve often wondered if there are any tools out there that could compare. So far, I’ve not found one, but a recent announcement by Tech Crunch proves that there are other companies out there who are trying to enter the company communication market. One such company, Flip, who is run by CEO Benedikt Ilg, is a Germany-based employee communication application that may fit the bill.

The company was founded in 2018 and received a whopping $4M in funding. They aim to connect employees and teams through their robust application, which offers features such as a personalized business-related news feeds, employee-specific profiles, cross-platform support, personalized branding, and of course, chatting via their messenger tool. They also brag about their security features, an ever-growing concern amongst most business owners.

According to their website, the company employs 19 people and a pretty adorable dog named Hazel (Chief Happiness Officer). It doesn’t look like the app is readily available to the public yet, but I can only hope it will be soon, as they start to use their funding, which was meant to hire more employees and to expand in general.

According to Tech Crunch, “The startup has now secured customers including Porsche, Bauhaus, Edeka, Junge IG Metall and Wüstenrot & Württembergische. Parts of Sparkasse and Volksbank are also among the customer base. Deutsche Telekom is also a partner.”

Needless to say, once this application becomes available, I’ll definitely test it out to compare to my current toolset, which mostly consists of Slack and associated apps/connections.

With any company, communication between departments is crucial to keep all aspects of it working like a well-oiled machine.

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Tech News

Productivity hacks for tools you already have

(TECH NEWS) No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here. This website gives you productivity hacks to utilize the tools you already have.

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productivity hacks with productivity.so

If you find yourself searching for productivity hacks on the internet, chances are you’re already procrastinating. We’ve all been there and sometimes you do need to invest a little time upfront in order to save time long-term. The problem is that most “productivity hacks” recommend you download a new app or software which means you need to invest time in learning how to use it. All of this strays you further and further from your original goal of working more efficiently and saving time.

A new website called Productivity.so is designed to save you time by better utilizing the tools you’re already using. The websites founders are self-proclaimed productivity lovers who have devoted their own time to collecting a pool of productivity hacks for you iPhone, computer, Gmail, and more. No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here.

This website focuses on helping you make your current technology as useful as possible.

It’s a safe bet that there are dozens of ways you could be using your phone, computer, or tablet more efficiently. No one stops to read the instruction manual and even if you did it would only be so helpful because modern technology updates. Everything from your computer to your favorite social media app is constantly pushing out updates with new productivity hacks just waiting to be found.

It’s impossible to keep up on your own! Earlier today I realized you can switch between Twitter accounts by holding down the home button. I use this app every day, but I couldn’t tell you if this a new feature or if I just noticed it.

Productivity.so could be a great way to stay up to date on the latest UX tricks that will help you and your team speed up your workflow. The website currently hosts a small library of hacks that users can browse through. The next great breakthrough in your productivity could be waiting.

The website also offers a free weekly newsletter which promises to send you two new productivity hacks each week. These hacks will be simple tricks like switching between Gmail accounts by holding down your avatar. They’re easy enough that you can start implementing them into your daily routine right away.

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