The sabotage of efficiency by interruptions

If in-house counsel are besieged by e-mail, instant messages, cell phones, and personal digital assistants, not to mention telephones, walk-ins, meetings, deliveries and radios, their ability to concentrate is severely compromised. It’s a dramatic drop-off, in fact, according to an expert on information technology and its use, Jakob Nielsen, in the Fin. Times, Aug. 23, 2006 at 5.

Nielsen has found that for knowledge workers “every time you are interrupted it takes five to 15 minutes to fully recapture your train of thought and get back to being completely immersed in your main task.” In a research study cited in the same article, volunteers carried out tasks, first in a quiet environment and then in one where they were subjected to a barrage of calls and e-mails. In the second scenario the volunteers’ effective IQs were reduced by 10 points (10% of a normal IQ).

Lawyers who work in-house need time and peace to concentrate; the ruptures of interruptions severely impair both.

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