Before You Check Your E-Mail . . .

Wired News reports that technology has made many workers less efficient. In an article titled, “Work More, Do Less With Tech,” a series of surveys and reports point to a rushed and unfocused work force that is only able to nibble away at projects.

“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, an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.”

There simply appear to be too many things bombarding employees at once:

“Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voicemails 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.”

Many workers report feeling rushed, while their calculated productivity has been dropping:

“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.”

At the end of the article, there is an offer of advice regarding ways to avoid this problem:

“Companies that are flexible with workers’ time and give workers the most control over their tasks tend to fare better against the sea of rising expectations, experts said.

Businesses that have moved to 24-hour operations, bosses who micro-manage and longer commutes all add to the problem, they said, while downsizing leaves fewer workers doing the work of those who left.

Finally, there’s a trend among companies to measure job performance like never before, said Challenger. ‘There’s a sense that no matter how much I do, it’s never enough,’ he said.”

It is worth noting that technology can become another commodity or another item. While we still have the same old computer, the computer provides us with an endless source of possible toys and gadgets.

I alone find that I can waste tons of time of with Google page creator, typepad, flickr, nucleus, vimeo, technorati, button making, graphic designs, CSS code, HTML code, online forums, blog reading, zines, and the list goes on. I typically add a new program per month to my collection, whether burning music, uploading files, or whatever. In short, it has never been easier to add “things” to our lives. Software and online services become commodities that cost next to nothing and are fun to play with.

When you add cell phones, black berries, Palms, ipods, and other hand-held devices, you can pretty much guarantee that you will fritter away hours toying with them.

And so we have the temptation to play with our online services and gadgets while at work. Even if they make us more efficient, they will eat up their fair share of time. Ah for the good old days of the pen and ledger!