Overloaded With Distractions

Is checking e-mail, responding to instant messages, and other distractions slowing down productivity

3 August 2010

A report by the IT research and consulting firm Basex found that the average information worker lost 2.1 hours of productivity every day due to interruptions and distractions. The interruptions largely come from instant messages and e-mail. The average employee instant-messages 77 times a day and checks e-mail 50 times, according to a recent report by another company, RescueTime, which develops time-management software.

Does your productivity suffer because of such interruptions? Can anything be done to avoid the distractions?

Responses to May's Question

Tablet Hype

Even before the Apple iPad's official announcement in January, the news media was buzzing about the tablet computer, which went on sale in April. Although much hype surrounded the iPad, tablet computers have been around for years without gaining much popularity. The iPad received glowing reviews by tech journalists but also criticism for features it lacks, such as Flash support, a USB port, and multitasking capabilities. Some observers predict the iPad will be the next big thing, while others say consumers don't need yet another device to add to their smartphones, laptops, and netbooks.

Do you think the iPad will be successful? Do you have one or plan to buy one?

Best Tablet Design

The iPad succeeds where other tablets have failed. It has no clumsy or cumbersome parts, including keyboards, to get in the way. It feels natural to use, because the operating system and user interface are specifically designed for it. In addition, the app store is a great marketplace. I am planning on buying an iPad soon.

Eli Hini
Calgary, Alta., Canada

Not Quite There

My laptop offers the same computing and communication capabilities as the iPad, but it is awkward and incomplete, something the iPad tries to address. Still, I'll hold off on buying an iPad until it becomes a more all-in-one package. I want a tablet with a slightly smaller screen. It should also have Bluetooth headset support, a built-in camera for video conferencing, and FM radio.

Gerard Robinson
Tarrytown, N.Y.

A Good First Step

The iPad is a technological step in the right direction, but the concept won't take off until we have an open system in which all content is welcomed without roadblocks. Wouldn't it be wonderful to point your tablet at your desktop system and have it wirelessly upload a file? That's my vision of the future.

Devlin Gualtieri
Ledgewood, N.J.

Just Another Fad

I do not have an iPad, and I do not intend to buy one. Just how many crummy little digital gadgets does Steve Jobs think we need? Buy one today, and it'll be obsolete and "oh, so yesterday" before you get it out the store's door. Frankly, I'd rather have a nice juicy steak right off the grill than any of Apple's "iGadgets."

Don McCallum
Greenwood, Calif.

Great for Others, Not Me

The iPad may be successful for certain niches such as eliminating paper charts for patients in hospitals, but I won't buy one, because it offers me nothing. It is too bulky to put in my pocket, I can't run engineering software on it, and the screen is too small for viewing anything other than text files. I prefer to read real books, because I don't have to worry about a book breaking if I drop it or if my backpack gets tossed around.

Mark Kelcourse
Greensboro, N.C.

Short Shelf Life

When I first heard the hype about the iPad, I thought it was just that: hype. Now that I have seen one, I am certain that Apple will sell a lot of them. The user interface is slick, fast, and puts my tablet PC to shame. But I also suspect that most of them will end up in a drawer by the end of the year. The screen looks like it would easily crack if it was sat on or stuffed into an overfilled briefcase. The omission of a USB port is a fatal flaw for business users. No matter how ubiquitous cloud computing is, most places are not set up for people to easily exchange files or access printers through the Internet.

Karl Berger
Centreville, Va.

Fits the New Environment

The online environment is now more suitable for using tablets effectively. Apple has seized the moment and momentum behind the changing wireless world and cloud computing. Think of the tablet as a terminal device, similar to a netbook that can connect wirelessly to all forms of content and applications. While it's not yet adopted by all companies, a rapidly growing number of individual users and small businesses are moving this way. Devices like the iPad that include 3G or 4G networks in addition to Wi-Fi will lead us to have even more robust connectivity and utility.

George Alexy
San Jose, Calif.

Editor's note: Apple announced that sales of its iPad had topped 3 million units by 21 June, 80 days after its U.S. launch.

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