Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: The 9% Solution?

I was going to blog about a different time management-related issue today, but I'm adapting because I received an e-mail this morning from Matthew Pelletier, Director of Relations for Compliance and Safety. He wanted to tell me about their infographic Restricting Social Media at Work: How does it affect Employee Productivity. Writers view social media as a boogeyman, a big factor in our inability to control our own time, so I took a look at the infographic. I found some information that relates to things we've talked about this year as well as something I've recently seen in the news.

Look at the section "The Case For Allowing Social Media in the Workplace." It says there that the 70 percent of people who engage in (limited) workplace Internet leisure browsing are supposed to be 9% more productive than those people who don't engage in it at all. That doesn't seem like a big number to me, but for those of us interested in time management, any increase in productivity is appreciated. What is more interesting, though, is this quote explaining why social media can make workers more productive: "Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days' work, and as a result, increased productivity." (Dr. Brent Coker, University of Melbourne)

Information on Coker was easy to find by...uh...surfing the Internet. At the end of this video, you can hear him talking about the impact of breaks on concentration levels. "We know that people can't concentrate for extended periods of time," he says.

His comments remind me of the research I've been hearing about, but not actually seeing, supporting what I call the unit system, breaking time into chunks between which you stop working for a bit and do something else so that when you begin again on your next unit you are duplicating the sense of productivity people are said to feel when they begin work. I haven't found the research that supports that "sense of productivity people are said to feel when they begin work," but Coker's findings are getting close.

And just what does the "short" in "short and unobtrusive breaks" mean? Different things to different people, no doubt, particularly when talking about social media. Earlier this month, Zadie Smith and other writers revealed that they block the Internet when they work. Either they haven't heard that they can increase their productivity by 9% with social media or "short" break for them was nowhere near short enough.

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