David Allen recently spoke with the Christian Science Monitor as part of an article they’ve published about the continuing loss of productive time that executives face as digital demands and distractions pile on. The level of interruptions, distractions, and pressures is creating the human equivalent of something techies call “thrashing” which in computer speak is where you’ve asked a computer to do too many different tasks at the same time and as a result performance slows to a crawl as its use of the hard drive becomes very inefficient.
Executive Thrashing: For the harried executive trying to finish off an important proposal while emails ding on her desktop as they pile up one after the other, meanwhile, her DND light may be on but the visible voice mail count on the digital display of her office phone increases her stress level as she realizes she’s falling further and further behind. The cell phone vibrating to indicate the fifth new SMS message in the last 30 minutes isn’t helping any more than her administrative assistant who alternates between using the intercom and barging in her closed office door to keep her informed of things that he should handle without the executive’s oversight.
From the article, David Wertheimer, executive director of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California says that such intense distractions are proving seriously harmful to our productivity and effectiveness.
“I see the American worker becoming less and less productive,” says Mr. Wertheimer. “As workplaces get flooded with digital demands, such as constant e-mails and nonstop information, we are in danger of becoming a third-world-style economy, where much movement takes place but little actual effective work is being done.”
And you wonder why the quality of corporate communications is going into the toilet? People ask me why I’m such a night owl and appear to only sleep during the day. It’s simple, I’m a writer but that’s a job I can only do uninterrupted – I can’t manage to secure uninterrupted time except in the middle of the night.
David Allen is one of the few people that identified these issues early and developed tools and techniques to combat the concentration and creativity destroying chaos that threatens our very ability to do our jobs at our potential. It is for this reason that GTD has become so prominent in the high pressure world of Silicon Valley – particularly among many people who are, arguably, among the most effective in their respective positions.