We’ve known for a long time that humans aren’t great at multitasking. Once distracted, our brains find it hard to let go of the new information we’ve just learnt or seen. This is why the constant onslaught of emails, messages, texts, and phone calls could be killing our productivity and creativity. Cal Newport, author of A World Without Email, has seen this first hand.
Cal discusses something he likes to call “Hyperactive Hivemind Workflow”, which is essentially what happens to our brains when we’re constantly being nudged by electronic messages. When you’ve got your head down and are working hard on an important project, just a simple glance at an email can spin everything out of whack.
Here’s the thing, this is happening to all of us, all the time. We are constantly monitoring our emails and messages, and by the mid afternoon, we’re out of energy. We’ve exhausted all of our cognitive resources. But isn’t it productive to check emails and respond to them quickly throughout the day? This is what Cal refers to as the “fool’s gold of busyness”.
Luckily, there are some ways to get us into a more productive state, without having a barrage of emails in our inbox. Cal talks about efficient meetings, Kanban boards, restricting ad hoc communication, having office hours, and being intentional with your time and attention. While these small email responses may seem like just a minute here or a minute there, they actually eat up a huge part of our work life.
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