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Shocker: study shows visual alerts distract you from doing work

The results of a new study show that you could get serious productivity gains by disabling visual alerts on incoming email, tweets, instant messages and the like. This isn't a big surprise I'm sure -- companies have been stamping down on 'rampant email reading' throughout the work day for a while now -- but what is surprising is just how much a single alert window can throw you off-track.

It's not simply a linear relationship: when you take 5 seconds to look at a notification window, you lose more than 5 seconds of work time. Another study recently found that, after reading an email, it takes users 64 seconds to return to a normal work rate. The researcher behind the new study, Helen Hodgetts, suggests that we use auditory indicators instead -- they can be registered by your brain while you work, but don't pull you away from what you're currently working on.

Simply referring to my own experience (but I'm sure most of you will agree), the study's findings do sound pretty damn accurate. If I want to actually get work done, I close my laptop (which manages all of my communication channels), and I do get a surprising amount of work done.

Maybe one-time-only notifications from utilities like Growl aren't as great as we think they are?

[via Web Worker Daily]

Tags: distraction, email, growl, notifications, productivity, research