Jackson, The Cost of Email Interruption
The Cost of Email Interruption - group of 10 »
TW Jackson, RJ Dawson, D Wilson - Journal of Systems and Information Technology, 2001 - drthomasjackson.com
This research has found that the interrupt effect from emails is more than generally believed. Employees at the company studied allowed themselves to be interrupted almost as frequently (every 5 minutes) as with telephone calls. The common reaction to the arrival of an email is not to delay response to a time that is more convenient to the user but to react within 6 seconds, again almost as quickly as they would respond to telephone calls. This means the interrupt effect is comparable with that of a telephone call.
The contrarian approach to dealing with electronic interruptions is to move the response to paper. When someone sends you an email, compose a postcard in return. There will be considerable delay, but the result may indeed be more memorable because of its unexpectedness. Less radical ideas involve reacting to an interruption in a "hot" medium with a reply in a more "cool" one, e.g. reacting to an instant message with a wiki post. The goal is to move from a one line poke to a reasoned reply.
The coolest approach, of course, is to ignore the interrupt and hope that if it was important it would be resent.
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