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Press Release: "An epidemic of techno-rudeness" by Tom Salonek, Intertech CEO, is published in the Star Tribune

Don't allow digital distractions to diminish creativity or common courtesy. After flying 1,000 miles to meet with me, a prospective client and his team from one of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies kept looking down at their newest business "productivity enhancing" gadgets - a BlackBerry. I stopped talking. I waited. He and his team were physically in the room but mentally 1,000 miles away. Finally, one of them looked up and said, "Oh, sorry, we just got these. There's stuff happening back at the office and these keep us connected." "Yes, they do," I replied sarcastically. They were too disengaged to notice. They have technology-enabled attention deficit disorder (ADD) I thought. A few years later, I learned I was right. Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Massachusetts psychiatrist and ADD expert, says the symptoms of ADD, such as the inability to focus and make thoughtful decisions, are surfacing in the workplace. The source is technological interruptions. Forbes magazine has pegged the number of e-mail messages received each week by the average office worker at a whopping 470! That's nearly 500 interruptions, and doesn't even include regular phone calls, cell phone calls or instant messages. I see it at my company, Intertech. I might be discussing a spreadsheet on someone's monitor and while we're talking, a little message pops up with a beep indicating each arriving e-mail. We both wonder what the message might be about. A recent article in Time magazine described a study of 1,000 office workers at an information technology firm that found interruptions waste 2.1 hours a day per person. Extrapolated to the entire U.S. workforce, the financial impact is more than $500 billion per year. We're frazzing! "Frazzing," says Hallowell in his new book, "CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap - Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD," means "frantic, ineffective multitasking, typically with the delusion that you are getting a lot done. The quality of the work, however, is poor." While no one can say how frazzing affects productivity, psychologists have long known that performance decreases in direct proportion to each additional task being juggled. What's the solution? Consider my "Four Ps" for the technologically frazzled: prioritize; problem solve; plan breaks; and put people first. Prioritizing is simple: Figure out what tasks you must accomplish in a given day, week or month. Then, organize your workday so those tasks get done first. Turn off the e-mail ping, hit "do not disturb" on your phone, shut your door and hunker down. The top of any priority list should be the most difficult tasks, which typically involve solving problems. Write down a clear statement of the problem at hand, continue by listing all possible solutions without filtering good or bad, then move on to prioritizing the potential solutions, pick the best one and begin executing. Getting tired from all that focused thinking and executing? Good! You're getting something done, but don't forget to plan breaks. By that I mean a real, honest-to-goodness, vacation...not simply a longer digital leash to the office. Unless someone's life depends upon it, leave your cell phone and e-mail at the office while you re-boot your brain. Finally, remember to put people first. Don't talk loudly on cell phones in public places or ignore people in person to respond to the digital people in your life. It's rude to be half involved in a conversation, jumping between your live conversation and your virtual conversations. You'll also get more done in half the time if you engage your brain in one place at one time. By Tom Salonek Star Tribune Monday, June 12, 2006

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