Our Email System Was Down? So That’s Why I’ve Been So Productive!

March 13, 2008 at 2:06 pm | Posted in Attention Management, interruption science | 1 Comment

I have had a productive day today.  I’ve had some difficult material that I’ve been trying to convey in a clear and organized manner for the new SharePoint workshop we’re putting together. But it really came together this morning and I got a lot of work done, including breaking through some stumbling blocks that had me stumped earlier this week. 

Frankly, I didn’t even think about why I was so productive today until this afternoon, when I got this email from our IT department: “As you are most likely aware, we have suffered from a prolonged outage of our Exchange Server … ”

The real kicker was the part at the end that said “We understand that a prolonged outage such as this has a profound impact on everyone’s productivity.”

Indeed!  The prolonged email outage did have a profound impact on my productivity … it made me more productive!  You see, my work on the workshop involves syncing information from a number of sources, reorganizing a lot of material, and creatively thinking of new material.  It’s a lot to keep in my head, mentally shuffle around to envision the information from different angles, and wait for sparks of creativity or insight.  As it turns out I had no meetings scheduled for this morning either, so without the distraction of email “toasts” popping up and no emails the couple of times I checked, my mind stayed focused on my task which yielded dividends for me. 

Coincidence?  Possibly, but my productivity spurt started at about 5pm last night and lasted a few hours, then continued this morning, which is exactly when the email system was down.  It may not be the entire reason, but I do feel it was a contributing factor.  I was doing exactly the type of information work (mentally juggling lots of information for the purpose of organizing, synthesizing, and sparking creativity) that interruption scientists say is negatively impacted by distractions and interruptions. 

Of course, I’m happy that email is working again.  There are a number of tasks that needed to be shuffled along and they would suffer damage if the outage had continued.  And not all my work is of a type that requires long-term focus.  I do apologize to a few clients who were trying to contact me and got a slower response than usual.  Now my challenge is to finish my work while the email system is back and working.

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  1. I wandered over here from an auto-generated link on one of my posts…
    http://redstaplernation.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/thank-you-for-choosing-the-network-support-automated-system/

    Love the story – and I LOVE when our email goes down!


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