As the weeks fly by, I often run from meeting to meeting short of breath. I gather information and give constant feedback, which for the most part I feel is valued and on target. Between meetings, I grab one of my favorite devices to check email and what is happening in the world. Now, even my airplane time, which used to be for reading and thinking, is invaded by access to all my wireless data. The constant pace is often tiring, yet the addiction is justified by the need to keep up and deliver client service.
I'm now beginning to think there is no hidden camera watching my productivity, and although I do value response time to email, many emails do not require instant feedback. In fact, by waiting sometimes I find that others are able to resolve the issue at hand. I've also read data showing that multi-tasking is not as productive as we may think, and that when the brain focuses on a single thing for a longer time, it's more productive.
So, I decided to test this idea out for a day. I often had to remind myself not to check email just before finishing a task, and I did cheat once or twice, but I feel the writing of the content I focused on was completed quicker and required less editing. I also spent an entire dinner without checking my BlackBerry (I shouldn't be proud of this, but I didn't even check when I went to the bathroom). I know others can relate. I enjoyed the dinner conversation immensely and realized I was a bit more relaxed.
I will not be giving up my multiple devices any time soon (as I type this on my iPad while commuting), but I have decided to be more conscious of how I use them. Downtime to think is important, and I have scheduled it in my calendar. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Barri Rafferty is senior partner and director at Ketchum New York.