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Information Overflow - Do too many productivity tools kill the productivity?

18-Mar-2021 - wolfgang

Have you ever had the impression that something distracts you every few minutes?

More and more tools are used to manage work in companies. Most likely you are at this very moment using a task management and/or issue tracking software and perhaps some chat software. Maybe you are also chatting on Skype with customers, getting support emails from your help desk software or other information from your CRM?

Each of these and many more applications try to grab your attention, sending information about any change to you through as many channels as possible, even though they might not be of interest or relevance.

That has three main disadvantages:

1) you overlook that one important message.

2) you get distracted.

There's plenty of studies that suggest that it takes between 10 and 30 minutes to return to full concentration on your work after a distraction (e.g. https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/chi08-mark.pdf).

If you get a message every minute or so, the equivalent of 50 emails a day, you do the maths. The time taken up addressing those messages essentially means you never work on the problem you need to concentrate on.

3) it accumulates:

It’s not just your message box it’s across your whole team or project. Multiply the time spent on those messages and you have days of your project’s time wasted. This is specifically a problem if you are project manager who needs not only to manage the people but also need to be hands on.

Symptomatically what happens is that your quiet evenings and weekends become your most efficient time for productive work..

So what can you do about it?

  • Turn off (email, chat) notifications unless you really need to have them (e.g. you keep customer issues but disable notifications about every status change of every issue in the bug tracking system).
  • Use dashboards to get an overview not a constant flow of messages (e.g. are there still open tickets at the end of the day, rather than monitoring that someone answered every single one).
  • Delegate: officially turn off some channels for a few hours every day, and let everybody know. They can do the same thing.
  • Learn to ignore - your phone vibrates, a popup indicates that there's a new message - finish your train of thought and check it out later, it will still be there.

What can we do as a tool provider?

  • We make it hard to send emails, people should do it when it's important not all the time.
  • We don't have automated emails or reminders, other than for security related things (e.g. suspicious invalid log-ins).
  • Our slack integration can be configured to only show important messages.
  • We have an API so that you can build your own notification.
  • We added a built-in notification system in Matrix which does not leak out (so you see what needs to be done when you want to do something, rather being pushed to do something just because someone created a job or you need to sign a new document.).
  • We added dashboards to see the status of the project (e.g. how is testing progressing, are the specs complete, what design reviews do I need to do and what do I need to sign, who needs to finish training for the QMS?).

Want to have a demo how it can work? Feel free to contact us!

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