Posted by: kurtsh | May 30, 2005

QUESTION: Is your short-term memory disappearing like mine?

[This is a somewhat odd blogpost but bear with me]
About 5 years ago, I noticed that my short term memory was disappearing.

When I say disappearing, I mean that I couldn’t even remember things that I needed to do for 5 minutes before I forgot them.  My memory loss steadily got worse over the next 5 years to the point where I couldn’t remember things for 30 seconds – this is one of the reasons I got so heavily into PDAs to write down what I might forget.

Originally, I kept this to myself.  I hypothesized that my "brain" had gotten full… or that I’d suffered some sort of exhaustion related ailment… or that my apartment had a gas leak in it and caused some sort of brain damage.  (No joke – I actually checked into this)  But then I contacted people throughout Microsoft and discovered that many other Microsoft full time employees had been experiencing the same problem.  In fact, when I thought about it, my memory had been just fine up until I joined Microsoft in 1995.

Then I read this article:
Alarming Effect E-Mail Has on Your Brain
"We have no idea what you’re supposed to do about this, but a British study by TNS Research commissioned by Hewlett Packard concludes that workers who are distracted by frequent phone calls, e-mails, and text messages actually suffer a greater loss of IQ than someone who smokes marijuana, report The Guardian and UK’s Press Association."
http://channels.netscape.com/ns/tech/package.jsp?name=fte/emailandiq/emailandiq

Here’s a few other articles:
E-mails ‘hurt IQ more than pot’
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/04/22/text.iq/

Abuse of technology can reduce UK workers’ intelligence
http://h41131.www4.hp.com/uk/en/pr/UKen22042005142004.html

Guide to Avoiding Info-Mania
http://h40059.www4.hp.com/featurestories/infomania.html

Microsoft’s philosophy about "information overload" is simple:  You need to be able to control and manage the interruptions that occur during the work day to optimize your productivity.

One of the biggest culprits in causing workplace productivity disruption is email.  It dawned on me that until I started working at Microsoft, I had never read 250+ emails and written 100+ emails a day.

Now combine that with this article:
Addicted to e-mail? You’re not alone
If you find you’re checking e-mail about as often as you inhale, you’re not alone. Be it on vacation, at the wheels or straight out of bed, an American e-mail user finds it difficult to resist its lure for long, according to a study released Thursday by America Online.
http://news.com.com/Addicted+to+e-mail+Youre+not+alone/2100-1032_3-5721638.html?part=rss&tag=5721638&subj=news

…and you can see the danger here.

For those of you interested, I’m personally working on a presentation about "Mitigating Workday Disruption for your Intellectual Health".  Those of you at Countrywide will need to be using Outlook to take advantage of this presentation being that all of the optimizations that I’ve learned are rooted in our tools.


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