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Why Email Has Become Dangerous

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the run-away-run-away dept.

Communications 255

mikkl666 writes "The Sydney Morning Herald runs an interesting story dealing with a study about email user behavior, explaining how and why email can be a terrible distraction: 'It takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after interruption by email. So people who check their email every five minutes waste 8 1/2 hours a week figuring out what they were doing moments before.' Email is also compared to slot machines in the way it works psychologically: 'So with email, usually when I check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there's something wonderful — an invite out or maybe some juicy gossip — and I get a reward.' There are also some hints offered on how to keep control of the inbox, for those of us already addicted."

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255 comments

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hmm (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945623)

I find porn to be more distracting than email

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945951)

Dude, it should be in your email.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946487)

Uh, It's web2.0! RSS-feeds!

Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like this.. (5, Funny)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945627)

with regards to comment sites!

Now, WTF was I doing....

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (5, Insightful)

networkconsultant (1224452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945675)

Slashdot wastes far more time than e-mail :D

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945709)

Definitely. The best email I get is trying to sell me Nigerian iPod Enlargers... I'd rather a chance at +5 Insightful any day.

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (4, Funny)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945719)

Slashdot is merely the tool for my shovel leaning. Seriously, what were we doing? Don't remember...

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945837)

Yes: Email is also compared to slot machines in the way it works psychologically: "So with email, usually when I check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there's something wonderful â" an invite out or maybe some juicy gossip â" and I get a reward." There are also some hints offered on how to keep control of the inbox, for those of us already addicted."

My sentiments regarding slashdot!

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (2, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946087)

Email is also compared to slot machines in the way it works psychologically: "So with email, usually when I check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there's something wonderful."

Obligatory xkcd reference [xkcd.com]

(don't forget to mouse over)

I always get my reward (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946527)

But then I'm a geek and have set up a random-futurama-quote autoresponder for when I get *that* bored.

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (2, Funny)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946099)

In fact, email probably ENHANCES productivity when the subject of the email received is:

"Stop Reading Slashdot and Get Back to Work"

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (1)

networkconsultant (1224452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946161)

But work is only rarely rewarding ;)

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945829)

Don't forget that there are other kinds of interruptions too - like IM clients that has the same effect.

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945933)

Getting a marketing call is the worst. How the fark did they get my direct dial number? It's not just bad because it's directly distracting, it's bad because afterwards I get pissed off that I was distracted.

At least if I choose to check my email (or IM) messages it's because I want to [know if I have any replies on /.]. Also if I'm busy I can just not check my email. Since I use Outlook for my work mail I can just check the system try to see if there's a mail icon anyway (but this only works for the main inbox, not subfolders).

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946387)

And other humans just in general.

I always keep all of the communication apps I have running on a different desktop from than the actual work I am doing. And turn off all automatic beeping and rectangle blitting to the active desktop. That lets me prioritize messages rather than someone else.

Re:Oh! I can't wait until they do a study like thi (1)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946061)

Could someone explain irony to me? Just checking...

Hey (5, Funny)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945643)

I check my e-mail more often than every five minutes and I

What? What was I doing?

Re:Hey (4, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945999)

Wasting time on slashdot, damnit quit wasting your wasting time time!

Email is the best (4, Insightful)

adamruck (638131) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945649)

As far as not interrupting work, email is better than any other medium because I can choose when to read the message. That is not true if someone calls me, or walks into my cube.

Re:Email is the best (5, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945731)

People call me telling they are going to send a mail.

I used to check my mail two or 3 times a day, but where I work now it is a 'must' to respond immediately on every mail. Only half the work is done.

I guess the only people actually working is IT to keep the mail server up and running.

Re:Email is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945797)

You should have your email client check for new email every 5 minutes.

Re:Email is the best (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946009)

Your client checking for new mail and yourself checking your client for new mail are two different things.

Any business person relying on email will most likely have their client being updated at least once a minute if they are using an Exchange with Outlook. That's how often my Outlook seems to update anyway.

Phones with DirectPUSH capability or a crackberry don't even do the once a minute thing, they just send you the message immediately.

Re:Email is the best (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946291)

Why? If it's urgent then they'll phone. An advantage of email is that I deal with it at my convenience. Having the client pop up with "You've got mail" is an unnecessary distraction.

Re:Email is the best (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946493)

You should have your email client check for new email every 5 minutes.
My Outlook only pulls new e-mails every 5 minutes, but that tends to lead to the situation where someone will call me or IM me and ask if I have had a chance to respond to their e-mail yet, even thought I haven't received it yet.
Of course you have to understand that i work at a company where I have 10 standing meetings on my calendar, and if I show up, I find out that they moved it to another day or time, and I also regularly get asked if I can be in an 8:00 A.M. meeting at 8:10 A.M. (at which time I am usually on my way to work because unless I was specifically notified that I need to be at work earlier, I usually show up between 8:30 and 9).
Don't get me started on the number of meetings scheduled at lunch time that are not lunch meetings, or the fact that we have two deadlines daily, one at noon and one at 1:00 P.M.

Re:Email is the best (2, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946203)

Quite. I usually check my email at the start of work, before and after lunch and at the end of the day. I used to get phone calls asking why I didn't respond to an email 10 minutes earlier, although I seem to have managed to train my co-workers that email is not an immediate means of communication (and that the "high priority" flag is their priority, not mine).

Re:Email is the best (2, Funny)

jep77 (1357465) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946437)

I guess the only people actually working is IT to keep the mail server up and running.

Which is why I spend ALL day e-mailing...just to make sure it's working... And I get paid to do this? What a country!

Re:Email is the best (2, Insightful)

Tomji (142759) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945795)

Same here, I need to focus and often do not check my email for an hour or two.
Any phone call complelty kills my focus.

Stupid studies like this that do not consider the impact of alternatives just make my bosses encourage others to call me instead of writing me a well structured Email.

Re:Email is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945825)

Yes email is better than other ways of people distracting you, but the problem with email is the volume you get. It would be far worse if every single email message you got was instead delivered to you via phone or sneakernet to your cube.

We need to reduce the volume of emails by people realizing that half the stuff they send back and forth just isn't important enough to justify the distraction it creates. Mass emails would be less distracting if they were posted to a bulletin board or RSS feed, and keep email just for person-to-person communication, kind of like memos used to be.

Re:Email is the best (2, Insightful)

zarkill (1100367) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945969)

At our company there's always talk about how "email is so impersonal and such an inefficient communication method" and "wouldn't it be much better to just pick up the phone or walk over to someone's desk", and every time it comes up I try to raise this very point.

How am I supposed to concentrate on what I'm doing if someone actually walks up to me and asks me something, or buzzes me on my phone? These things are interruptions that REQUIRE an immediate response. It's not like an email, where if I see one come in, I can ignore it for the moment and address it when I'm finished with my current task.

But I think there's a touchy-feely backlash against email that favors the immediate human contact, regardless of the side-effects.

Twitter? ROFL (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946035)

I agree with most of the article, but here's one that makes me ROFL:

Mr Reynolds has even begun to think of email as rude and invasive, preferring to use tools such as Twitter

Yeah, right! And did you know that heroin was invented because doctors in the 19th century thought morphine was too addictive?

Re:Email is the best (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946053)

So, Peter, what's happening? Aahh, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?

Re:Email is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946093)

That is not true if someone calls me, or walks into my cube.

Voice mail and a Dorito fart. Problem solved. Executive decisions make executives.

Re:Email is the best (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946119)

You should try this just to watch what happens. When one of those people that wants your time visits your cube, and while they are talking the phone rings, ignore it while they look at you like they are waiting for you to answer it. I treat the phone like email in that regard. If it's important, they'll leave a message and I'll get to them when MY schedule permits. Depending on caller ID, I might answer, might not. It's not the medium that is distracting, it is whether a person will let themselves be distracted or not. At work, I often wear headphones so that I don't have to listen to other people talking, or the phone ringing.

Email has notifiers to let me know, voicemail has notifiers to let me know, IM has notifiers to let me know. I don't have to check. A quick perusal of my task/status bar tells me all I need to know.... when I want to know.

If people seriously don't want to be interrupted, it's possible.

Re:Email is the best (1)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946375)

The things is, the barrier to entry for other people to send you an e-mail is lower than to phone you and much, much lower than to walk to you cube.

So you're a lot less likely to get e-mails for unimportant things.

Then there's the fact that many e-mails are pieces of conversations that spread over multiple e-mails (e.g. question e-mail, answer e-mail, thanks e-mail)

On top of this there are things like mailing lists and automated e-mails that pretty much mean you're pretty much being spammed by your colleagues or automated agents.

The end result is that the information to noise ratio of e-mails is much, much worse than in traditional means of communication.

Which is why so much time is wasted with e-mails: checking if an e-mail is meant for you or important for you consumes time (even if you don't care about that e-mail) and the huge numbers of non-relevant or unimportant e-mails one gets at work thus translate into significant amounts of time being wasted.

Re:Email is the best (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946479)

That is not true if someone calls me, or walks into my cube.

That's why I built and internapault. It works on employees at levels higher than interns with the correct shielding. And, yes, Dilbert is my hero.

You were already wasting time.. (5, Insightful)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945653)

If you're checking your email hoping for an "invite out" or "juicy gossip," the time you are on probably isn't very valuable before anyway. In a business environment, you aren't wasting time, you're communicating. Not taking in to account organizational spam, of course.

Dot dot dot. (3, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945667)

Lets just throw in that distracting "talking" thing which many people are utterly addicted to. They waste hours every day talking or being talked at. Many love to exchange lots of gossip and when they hear something juicy or tell a joke and their reward center is triggered by another talker reacting positively they get a buzz like with a slot machine and it can be terrible for your concentration.

Like Slashdot itself (4, Insightful)

FeatherBoa (469218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945677)

usually when I check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there's something wonderful

This describes Slashdot exactly.

Re:Like Slashdot itself (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945991)

This describes Slashdot exactly.

Speak for yourself. I'm still waiting on the something wonderful... ;)

Re:Like Slashdot itself (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945997)

Replying to get your hopes up when you see that someone has replied to you.

Re:Like Slashdot itself (1)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946239)

Also need to check in on the reply itself to see how it was moderated. Might it get a +1 insightful or a non-karma enhancing +1 funny?

Re:Like Slashdot itself (1)

phillous (1160303) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946373)

that seems really nice of you, so I thought I'd do the same for you. Isn't it a shame that you'll get an email telling you that you have a reply, only to find out that its not very interesting at all?

Re:Like Slashdot itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946379)

Yes, my RSS feed in my mail is much more...

ooooh, shiny... ...distracting that anything in my inbox.

Don't check your email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945679)

Let your email client tell you when you have mail.

Re:Don't check your email (5, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945831)

The ideal is not to do that, because you will stop doing what you were doing and start doing something else.

The best is to have fixed times during the day as to where you launch your email client and answer all the mails in there and then CLOSE your client again.

I used to do it two or three times a day. Morning, to get starting, right after luch and an hour before leaving to see if anything MUST be done immediately. Most of the time it could wait till the next morning. Sometimes it was 1 mail and exceptionally 2 mails that needed action or a reply.

And more often then not, not responding to an email would solve the problem by itself.

I would have been first (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945683)

I would have been first to comment, but the article reminded me I hadn't checked my email in nearly 5 minutes!

On a more serious note, does anyone else feel this article is a bit on the flimsy side. To me, it reads like a bad self-help book in search of a gullible audience.

Re:I would have been first (1)

QuantumPete (1247776) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945839)

Actually, I find that the more e-mail you get, the less likely you are to check it. My work e-mail is literally bombarded with messages, one every minute or so. I often don't read any messages for half an hour or so. My private e-mail, however, I check on every five minutes, just in case. Weird...

gmail (2, Interesting)

tlacuache (768218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945689)

Gmail's helped me out with this. Any mail I'm expecting but is not critically important (developers' mailing list digests, stuff from my family, etc.) gets auto-tagged and removed from my index. So once or twice a day I look and see what new mail is in those areas. Spam gets moved to the spam bin. At that point everything else, which isn't too much, is probably something that needs to be dealt with when it brings itself to my attention. But at least I'm not getting interrupted with a "new mail" notification as often as I actually get new mail.

Re:gmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946335)

Yay for you. Yay for the other n00b who modded you interesting too. Had you ever used real e-mail (y'know, pop3/smtp) and a real e-mail client, you would have known the joys of filters, folders and threading way earlier.

If email is dangerous.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945693)

If email is dangerous, Slashdot is the devil.

After twenty minutes of reading everyone's comments, I can never remember what I was doing at work.

Re:If email is dangerous.. (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945863)

You think that is bad? I can never remember what kind of work I do.

Re:If email is dangerous.. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946075)

I think I sometimes plan out what I'm going to do better out of work hours, and then forget when I get back to work and find 23 slashdot replies waiting for me - though usually I've already checked some of those replies the night before or just after I wake up. I've got a lot more work done on the days where I leave slashdot replies for after lunch :s The trouble is, you sometimes actually get articles on /. that are relevant to your job, so you feel justified in reading the comments!

Interrupts (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945701)

Interrupt driven working is ineffective.

We know this already.

Personally I think ... brb checking email

"News" web sites are slot machines as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945721)

Whenever you cycle between sites on the web (typically when being at work), you are a victim of the same slot machine reward trap.

Slashdot (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945739)

The same goes for checking for the latest story on /.

Auto-notification? (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945741)

I check my email maybe a few times a day. When I get a message Thunderbird shows a nice little box telling me who it's from and a bit of the subject. If I miss that there's an icon in the system tray. Why on earth should I bother to keep opening my email client window?

Re:Auto-notification? (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945779)

Maybe I should add that the summary shown when mail arrives it also good for evaluating if I should open the email client window or just do it later and avoid a context switch...

Sorry, not waste (5, Insightful)

ccguy (1116865) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945745)

So people who check their email every five minutes waste 8 1/2hours a week

This argument is essentially flawed: It does not take into account the time *saved* by checking the email every five minutes.

If I get an email from my boss he might need an immediate answer, otherwise it is *his* time (more expensive) that is wasted if he needs an answer before he can do something.

And this also applies for my colleagues.

Plus since I don't have to idle while they answer, I make up for that 'wasted' time the article mentions.

Please don't listen to this crap, if you don't want to waste time on email just ignore those powerpoints with music and flowers, but do read the work emails as soon as possible.

Re:Sorry, not waste (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945897)

No, this is a case of folks needing to use the right medium for the right purpose. EMail is intended to be asynchronous. If your boss needs an immediate answer, he should walk over and talk to you, or pick up the phone. Sometimes, something is too complicated or will take a lot of back and forth, but is not urgent. I will schedule a brief meeting so as to presume the recipient needs to drop everything to attend to what I need. If something is urgent, I get my butt out of my chair and walk over to the person who has the info.

Iit ain't really complicated/

Re:Sorry, not waste (4, Insightful)

ccguy (1116865) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946011)

EMail is intended to be asynchronous

Work email should have decent round-trip times.

If your boss needs an immediate answer, he should walk over and talk to you, or pick up the phone.

Yes, because a phone call is less of an interruption than a quick email. In fact a phone call is likely to interrupt if not annoy other people as well, and anyway if my boss calls me I'm going to say 'I'll check it and get back to you' anyway (my boss doesn't call to ask the time).

If something is urgent, I get my butt out of my chair and walk over to the person who has the info.

There's a difference between 'urgent' and 'as soon as you can'. I don't expect people to get out from a meeting to answer an email, and I think everyone's entitled to take a piss without being called on their cell. However, if they are on their desk and not doing something really urgent, I appreciate that they don't have long email checking cycles.

By the way, I never email non work stuff to work addresses. I do have friends at work of course but if I send them something that is not related to work I use their personal addresses.

Push Email! (4, Insightful)

Piranhaa (672441) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945747)

This is why push email is so good. You don't (or don't need to) be hovering around your inbox like a dog wanting to get a treat. On my Blackberry, I setup filters and blocks so only the important emails come through, while the regular 'crap' stays on my inbox. It's still distracting (unless you turn on silent), but it still distracts a LOT less than checking your email every few minutes...

Re:Push Email! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946143)

The article's point is about push e-mail, though. Push e-mail is the problem, not the solution, because it just pops up on your screen.

BTW, if you want push e-mail, you don't need a Blackberry. Even if you don't want to run your own external mail server, you can just use fetchmail, which pretty much gives you the feel of push e-mail at home.

less time than exasperating phone call (1)

baldsue (1306479) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945753)

It might take 64 seconds to figure out wtf I was working on after checking my email but it takes a hell of a lot longer to figure out wtf I was working on after an exasperating phone call from the same idiot who emailed me.

Minor - very minor. (3, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945769)

Okay, so what about all the other interruptions in the day (mandatory meetings that don't involve what you're doing but you have to go to it anyway, emergencies that pop up which you're required to jump after, the Boss stopping by to get your input on something he/she just saw somewhere, folks stopping by to tell you some joke they heard on TV last night, vendors(!) wanting to get a word in edge-wise with you, phone calls, etc)?

Trust me, there's far worse than email out there (and I can always minimize my email client until I decide to go look at it).

/P

pote na ginei to meeting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945775)

Doste poio katw tis epiloges sas parakalw kai pshf;iste analoga

e-mail im procrastination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24945813)

It's better to check emails every 5-10 minutes than constantly twitter or be on IM all the time.
"I'm sitting down"
"ok i've sat down"
"i don't know what i'm doing"
"i still don't know what i'm doing"

with e-mail, it's less of a procrastination-maker.

also, some of us rely on emails and are in front of our screens all day - coding and procrastinating (or procrastinating by coding - it happens)

use notifications (a sound or an alert image on the screen) for e-mails. don't be obsessed. and once in a while, re-read very old messages for fun. (oh, so that's why the girl left me. ouch, now you know that you were indeed an ass) wlol

enjoy e-mailing and having fun. behold the dark side of procrastination though.

IMs too? (1)

andy19 (1250844) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945823)

I wonder if this applies to instant messages as well. I know emails generally take longer to read, but seeing that flashing new IM can get distracting as well.

Re:IMs too? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945911)

That's because there's a person waiting for a reply right now behind that flashing IM icon.

In person / phone call = requires immediate attention
IM = requires a reply ASAP
email = should be able to wait about 30 minutes before a reply. If it's more urgent, come see me / call me /send me an IM.

I think companies would be wise to have such policies in place (method X of communicating = xyz delay).

64 seconds? (2, Interesting)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945835)

In corporations, you have to react to e-mail fast. That's why people check it often.

I'd say working in large companies is more dangerous (and distracting) than e-mail itself.

Working for smaller companies, I never had problems writing 1000+ lines of code per day. Working in large companies, I have to stay after 6pm to be able to concentrate at all. And e-mail, believe me, is least of the distractions.

Re:64 seconds? (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946025)

In corporations, you have to react to e-mail fast. That's why people check it often.

Educate your co-workers! I tell everyone that I do not read my email continuously. Use emails for non-urgent stuff, big reports, stuff that needs to be filed or tracked, and quick questions that don't require an immediate response. For urgent stuff, I ask people to use the phone or IM. And if I need to concentrate, the phone goes to voicemail. If something comes up that is urgent enough to interrupt me while I do not want to be interrupted, drop by my desk.

I don't like being interrupted by email, so I use the "Getting Things Done" approach: processing email is best done as an activity when you are in the mood, not ad-hoc every time the little envelope appears on your taskbar (turn that thing off, by the way). A few times a day (depending on what else I am doing), I open my inbox, read everything and take action:
- If the email contains junk or info only, I delete or file it accordingly
- If the email prompts me to take some action, I do it right away if I can complete the action in under 2 minutes.
- If I can't process an email in under 2 minutes, it goes into the "action" folder (which I process when I am in the mood for that).
Bam. A few minutes, empty inbox, no distraction. And best of all, no stress caused by interruptions or an overly full inbox.

Re:64 seconds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946209)

... Working for smaller companies, I never had problems writing 1000+ lines of code per day...

Wow, people still write code in COBOL?

Re:64 seconds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946393)

For sure...the bigger the office, the higher the chance of having a hottie in the office.

AC

Are you guys serious? (5, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945867)

TFA and some comments keep mentioning "checking email every 5 minutes".

Don't you use email clients that check for new email automatically every 5 minutes and tells you if a new email has arrived? If you need to manually click a "get new emails" button every 5 minutes then I suggest you find a better program.

In fact I've never seen an email client that couldn't do this, so what gives?

Re:Are you guys serious? (1)

LoudBanana (1298285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946051)

Exactly what I was going to say. I keep Thunderbird minimized to my dock 24/7, set to check every 1 minute if there's a new email.

Re:Are you guys serious? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946103)

They're probably using gmail, hotmail, or some other web-based email system. Most people don't even seem to realise that stand-along email clients exist these days.

Re:Are you guys serious? (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946285)

http://www.poppeeper.com/ [poppeeper.com]

It's gratis and works with POP3, IMAP, and a lot of webmail clients. (Windows only, but very small)

But there are more than enough other tray applications that have similar features.

Re:Are you guys serious? (2, Funny)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946189)

The end of TFA actually says:

"Turn off intrusive alerts. Anything that pops up, flashes, or goes "ding!" will interrupt you when you're trying to focus and will trigger a response to check your email."

That seems like a really bad idea to me. Without alerts, I would be checking for new emails a lot more often than I already do.

Re:Are you guys serious? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946521)

And if the title of the email is precise enough, a simple alt-tab to the email client, reading the email title, deciding that it can wait and an additional alt-tab shouldn't break your train of thought that badly.

If email has become dangerous, it's become of spam. I wonder how much ressources (electrical power, cpu cycles, bandwidth) is wasted by it.

Oh puhleeze (1)

zifn4b (1040588) | more than 5 years ago | (#24945957)

If you're really that worried about it, turn the pop up notifications for new mail arrival off and only check your email at regular intervals during the day or when you're in-between tasks.

Now as far as people coming by your cube every five minutes to interrupt your work, that's a different issue. At least with email and instant messaging you have control over whether it distracts you or not by configuring your client. Worse case scenario, turn the damn thing off when you're busy.

What does it mean to "check" your email? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946019)

Nowdays doesnt everyone use some sort of automated retrieval system to automatically get messages once they are received? I dont get why you really need to go out of your way to check anything. If there is flashing icon, then read it. If not, dont bother hitting refresh....

Stupid study.

Beats instant messenger! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946065)

I'll take email over AIM/Jabber/etc methods anyday.

Addicted to Email? Impossible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946095)

I'm not sure about you guys, but I usually check my email once in the morning and once at night... and that's it. Anything of critical importance I have on a seperate, filtered mailbox that's pushed out to my BlackBerry, so it /tells/ me when I have new mail, and it's /always/ important.

Dangerous (1)

redaction101 (1309783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946105)

I've never viewed procrastination as dangerous. I dare say that none of us here on /. would disagree.

Unless of course you're a member of the bomb squad. In which case, how/why read e-mails mid task?

Is this new? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946111)

You could say the same thing about phone calls. However, I more easily ignore my email as it is far less attention grabbing than a ringing phone. With modern phone systems, you can see the person calling and voice mail helps you not to answer. That ringing is still distracting. With email, I tend to postpone all but the urgent emails if I have to work on something. It's how people manage the technology and not let the technology manage them.

Annon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24946133)

I use Outlook and it pops up when new email comes so it doesn't waste much time :)

Email is dangerous? (1)

vaedur (1357815) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946135)

Thank god they finally made guns safe, all i have to worry about is email!

The bain of instant messaging (5, Insightful)

omnirealm (244599) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946147)

I work in a corporate culture where if you are not available via
instant messaging, many perceive is that you are not really working at
the time. I know several people who wake up in the morning and the
first thing they do is connect via the VPN to get their instant
messaging client running so that their bosses and coworkers think
they are working diligently. I work best by batching tasks via email
messages, so I make it clear to people to just send me an email and I
will get back to them within a day or so. This does not work for some
people; one person in my organization will try instant messaging me
and calling my office phone, but he will not bother to send me an
email, and then he will later complain that he cannot communicate with
me.

As a software engineer, I remain productive by having several hours of
uninterrupted time to focus on a particular task at hand. When the
code builds, installs, tests, and is in the repo ready for the next
release, then I am ready to move on to the next task, like check my
email, which I do maybe two or three times a day. I am able to give my
code the due attention it deserves, and I can concentrate on not
making coding mistakes by keeping the entire code context "swapped in"
my head while I am working on it. During that time, invariably some
project manager somewhere is panicking about a status report or some
other overhead and is trying to get me to update a bug ticket or
something. Usually, by the time I read his frantic email about the
status report, I have already fixed the problem that he wants status
on because I was able to focus on it without interruption.

Most people eventually figure out that they get good consistent work
from me regardless of the fact that they cannot interrupt me freely at
any time, like most other employees in my organization. I do wish that
more of my coworkers would take a more proactive stance on not letting
themselves get interrupted all the time, since I see first-hand the
negative impact it has on their ability to function. I get annoyed
when I am trying to talk to my boss during a meeting and he stammers
right in the middle of an important discussion with, "Uh, wait, I just
got am IM, I, uh, need to, uh, just a second, let me think..."

Re:The bain of instant messaging (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946319)

Interesting you mention the IM client running. Though we do that as well, I typically am listed as "unavailable" and forget to check it. My staff just ignores that and sends me emails instead.

Go figure.

Re:The bain of instant messaging (2)

rickkas7 (983760) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946413)

Also annoying: people who send an AYT IM, then proceed to spend a minute or two typing a long IM, instead of just sending me an email in the first place, thereby interrupting me twice.

There are definitely things worse than email distraction.

Re:The bain of instant messaging (1)

KindMind (897865) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946467)

... I know several people who wake up in the morning and the first thing they do is connect via the VPN to get their instant messaging client running so that their bosses and coworkers think they are working diligently.

Boy, that's messed up ...

I work best by batching tasks via email messages ... As a software engineer, I remain productive by having several hours of uninterrupted time to focus on a particular task at hand ...

Yeah, exactly. I work best in batch mode. I'll have down time waiting for stuff to build, etc., and that's when I'll check my emails. But I totally ignore email while coding. It's the phone calls that get me - the simple act of the phone ringing is enough to cause me to dump my memory, and lose what I'm doing. I've tried to educate our support dept. to email instead of calling for that reason. I'll usually get back with them within a reasonable time, just not instantaneously. Most of their questions take research anyway, and can't be answered immediately.

... I get annoyed when I am trying to talk to my boss during a meeting and he stammers right in the middle of an important discussion with, "Uh, wait, I just got am IM, I, uh, need to, uh, just a second, let me think..."

I think IM is evil, myself, but then I'm looking at it from a perspective of it being an interruption. I have diligently fought to keep it off my PC.

Safe Sex (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946165)

It only takes me 3 seconds to recover my train of thought after thinking about sex. Which is why I'm able to think about sex far more often than I read emails.

load of BS (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946215)

Sorry, for the lame brains that have problems focusing maybe, but when you are an engeneer who uses the computer all day long and have mission critical stuff running at all times, you tend to develop a knack for keeping your eye on the ball. Even if I am reading emails, I am quite capable of running a few scenarios and watching the tray for any pop ups....this seems to me, the typical user who has a hard time understanding you don't just keep clicking accept when zone alarm warns you something is trying to connect to the internet.

Are these also the same people that call you to say the computer is broken because I cant seem to connect to the internet, and want to buy a new computer.
I tell them they have to upgrade to atleast a quad core with 4 gb of ram, and that gives me about another 6 months to a year before i get their next phone call saying they broke their computers....again.

I read this same article like 8 years ago (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946241)

More wasted research money! Before even reading TFA I could've written it on pure conjecture. "If ur a dummy who doesn't know how to use email notifications or filters, you waste ur timez!"

Newsflash, if you don't like your job, you'll FIND something to waste your time (*cough* slashdot), and no amount of research or policy enforcement will stop that. And if you're being interrupted by actual important emails, then they're actual important emails, and the interruptions are necessary and justified.

Peopleware covered this a long time ago (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946249)

Reimmersion time is actually 15 minutes in the Peopleware (DeMarco and Lister) quoted studies. This applies to all interruptions, email notifications, phone calls, IM, co-workers/bosses, etc. What I found funny about the article was that it was advocating technologies like IM as somehow being less intrusive. It was also concentrating on people consciously checking email rather than actually being interrupted by it, which means they probably weren't being too productive in the first place.

I avoid it. (1)

Arc the Daft (1340487) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946273)

Skydiving can be dangerous. I avoid it. Rodeo clowning can be dangerous. I avoid it. Not tying your shoes can be dangerous. I avoid it. Checking my email can be dangerous? Oh noes! Now I'm *really* screwed.

Actually it is a huge boost to productivity (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946299)

I get between 300 and 500 emails a day at work. (This does not include the openSUSE emails, the catalog emails and the Apache emails I get on my home accounts.) Of course, I have my trusty blackberry always at my side.

Instead of a distraction, I find email a productivity enhancement. I always know what is going on with my staff or my customers, and I can handle situations immediately. My inbox - and I just got in to work - has 35 items in it. After I resume work (away from /. distractions) I will empty my inbox and catalog everything. Using David Allen's GTG techniques (http://www.davidco.com/) I manage emails easily whenever I need to. I have discrete folders for anything that takes longer than 30 seconds to read and review. When done, they get archived or deleted. What doesn't need further review gets deleted immediately.

I especially enjoy those five to ten minutes before a meeting gets going where I can review my current emails (sent while I was in the last meeting) and do this process even on my blackberry.

Now, I have cut down on reading/writing emails while on the freeway. :P

Who needs to CHECK their email? (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946315)

If you're not using something that gives you alerts when you actually have one that isn't in your spam folder, you deserve whatever you get for living in 1998.

It takes me less than 64 second for my next move (2, Funny)

gsgriffin (1195771) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946401)

When interrupted by an email, I can easily determine my next move at work in about 30 seconds. But, then again, Solitare isn't that hard to lose focus on.

Heh. (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946403)

I already unlearned that behaviour years ago; but just today, I installed an out-of-browser gmail checker so I can keep my browser closed when I don't need it, in hopes of reducing temptation from gmail as well as /. and other devilish sites.

I still need my browser too much for other stuff, though, so the temptation to quickly parse the rss feeds for new stuff is still there. I have a long way to go :-)

Close the inbox and phones on do not disturb (1)

daeg (828071) | more than 5 years ago | (#24946405)

I switch -- I answer the phone for two hours and then put it on do not disturb for two. I only check e-mail about once every 30 minutes and make sure my inbox has 0 items. If I am not responding to something immediately, it gets flagged for follow up, categorized, and moved. I delete 90% of e-mail -- most of it is useless. Anything that won't be taken care of within a day or two gets put on a TODO/task list or delegated out.

Works great for me.

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