Distracting people in the Age of Speed




Technology has delivered us true immediacy, the entire knowledge of humanity served up in an instant.

In 2006 Marrisa Mayer a Google VP talked about experiments that tried increasing to 30 from 10 results on it’s search page.   More is more right?  To achieve this a 0.5 second delay in delivery of the results was necessary.

Unfortunately the delay resulted  in a 20% decrease in traffic and revenue.  As Marissa said in her talk, “Users really respond to speed.”


This unprecedented level of access has changed us.  We are far less patient, we expect things to be fast. 

Apparently it takes 15 minutes to resume a task effectively after a distraction.   Our need for instant gratification may lead us to expect that the people around us should also provide us with instant answers, breaking their concentration.  

In his book,  The Age of Speed: Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World, the Canadian speed skater Vince Poscente talks about the accelerating pace of life and how this can be regarded as negative for some people.  He believes however that if we let it, speed can enhance the quality of our lives.

We can use speedy technology to eliminate wasteful activities, but carefully ensuring that the way we spend our time is in accord with our key life purposes and objectives.  

In other words, spend more time on doing what you like, and less on what you don’t.

You can help others to do so too by not distracting them.  

There are a few ways of doing this :

  • Don’t use speakerphones in open plan or cubicles
  • Keep background noise to a mininimum
  • Keep conversations quiet
  • See if questions can be answered by using a computer instead of asking the question
  • Set aside a certain time each day as “interruption free time” where questions are kept to a minimum.

Many of these points are particularly relevant to managers.  We want to show an interest in what people are doing and to be helpful, but we need to also be respectful of their time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s