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Friday, February 24, 2006

Feeling Productive?


Americans work more, seem to accomplish less
By Ellen WulfhorstThu Feb 23, 9:58 AM ET

Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research.

Workers completed two-thirds of their work in an average day last year, down from about three-quarters in a 1994 study, according to research conducted for Day-Timers Inc., an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.

The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say.

"Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically," said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

"We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing," Challenger said on Wednesday. "It's harder to feel like you're accomplishing something."

Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research showed.

The average time spent on a computer at work was almost 16 hours a week last year, compared with 9.5 hours a decade ago, according to the Day-Timer research released this week.

Workers typically get 46 e-mails a day, nearly half of which are unsolicited, it said.

Sixty percent of workers say they always or frequently feel rushed, but those who feel extremely or very productive dropped to 51 percent from 83 percent in 1994, the research showed.

Put another way, in 1994, 82 percent said they accomplished at least half their daily planned work but that number fell to 50 percent last year. A decade ago, 40 percent of workers called themselves very or extremely successful, but that number fell to just 28 percent.

"We think we're faster, smarter, better with all this technology at our side and in the end, we still feel rushed and our feeling of productivity is down," said Maria Woytek, marketing communications manager for Day-Timers, a unit of ACCO Brands Corp.

The latest study was conducted among a random sample of about 1,000 people who work at least part time. The earlier study surveyed some 1,300 workers.

Expectations that technology would save time and money largely haven't been borne out in the workplace, said Ronald Downey, professor of psychology who specializes in industrial organization at Kansas State University.

"It just increases the expectations that people have for your production," Downey said.

First, it's not an actual study of productivity... it's a study on peoples' feelings regarding their productivity. The title should be, "Americans Work More, Feel that they accomplish less."

I submit that 30 years ago, when communicating with someone meant typing a letter and mailing it off, you felt like you accomplished something if you communicated a handful of times in a day. Today, with email and blackberries, you're much more efficient in communicating, so no one thinks anything of sending 50 emails in a day. (BTW, 46 emails a day on average and 1/2 are spam? I've got to talk to my boss about a raise, b/c I'm dealing with a lot more than that and zero unsolicited.)

All this being said, there is something to be said for having time to actually THINK during a workday. One of the things that I've been trying to do is to schedule tasks throughout the day and not answer email/phone. Instead of little chunks of each task getting done (in effect, nothing getting done), I'm able to complete tasks. Of course, I haven't been totally successful in establishing this... As with everything it takes time to plan.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler