It’s the Hyperactive Hive mind.

In the latter part of 2010 Nish Acharya was in Washington, DC, ready to go to work.

Obama had appointed Acharya as his director of the White House. Barack Obama had appointed Acharya as his director

Innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as an advisor on entrepreneurship and innovation to secretary

commerce. Acharya was assigned to coordinate with a team of 26 different

Federal agencies and more than five hundred universities to distribute $100 million

in terms of funding, which means that he was set to be the typical DC

power player: phone always on hands, messages being sent between the two

throughout the day. However, the network then broke.

A Tuesday morning, only a couple of months in his position,

Acharya was sent an email by his CTO telling him that they needed to

temporarily closed their office’s network because of computer viruses that temporarily shut down their network. “We

We all hoped that this issue was going to be solved within a few days.” Acharya told me

as I later questioned him later about when I later interviewed him about. This prediction was confirmed

The optimistic view was wildly exaggerated. The next week the undersecretary of commerce

held a meeting. The woman explained that they were concerned about the virus that was infecting

Their network came from an external power, and Homeland Security

It was recommended that the network be shut down while they trace the source of the attack.

To be sure To be safe, they also planned destroy all the laptops, computers, and

Printers, anything with chips–in the office.

One of the most significant effects of the network shut down was the fact that

Offices were unable to receive or send emails. For security reasons it was

it is difficult for them to use personal email addresses for their

administrative obstacles kept them from establishing

temporary accounts with other agencies network. Acharya along with his colleagues

We were effectively removed from the constant ping-ponging of chatter on the internet.

encompasses the majority of high-level activities in the federal government. The blackout

The trial lasted for the duration of six weeks. With a hint of humor from the gallows, they took to calling the

The day of the unthinkable when it all was about to begin “Dark Wednesday.”

Unexpectedly, the abrupt and sudden loss of email caused a certain

Parts of Acharya’s work are “quite horrendous.” Since the other government officials

The author continued to rely heavily on this tool, and he frequently worried about losing it.

important appointments or requests. “There was a prior record of information

Pipeline,” he explained, “and I was outside my pipeline.” Another issue was

logistics. Acharya’s job requires him to organize numerous meetings. He was also responsible for this

was much more unpleasant than if it was not possible to collaborate


What was perhaps less anticipated However, what was surprising was the fact that Acharya’s job didn’t grind

to a complete halt over the course of to a halt for to a complete halt during these. He began to notice that he had come

Actually, he is getting better at what he does. He is unable to quickly

When he received an email with the need to ask a question, he went out his office to talk with

individuals in people in. Since these appointments were difficult to schedule the appointments, he

He also scheduled longer blocks of time to allow him to become acquainted with the

the people he met and understood the intricacies of their concerns. He was able to understand the nuances of their issues.

Acharya explained that the extended sessions proved “very beneficial” for

A new political appointee is seeking to understand the intricate nature of the federal


The absence of an inbox to keep track of these meetings led to a gap

cognitive downtime – what Acharya used to call “whitespace”–to take a dive

More deeply in the literature of research as well as more deeply into the research literature and legislation pertinent to the subject

managed by his office. This is a slower and more deliberate way of thinking

The conference resulted in a couple of revolutionary ideas that ultimately set the tone for

Acharya’s agency was in operation for the whole year which came. “In the Washington

Political environment, nobody is willing to give themselves this room,” he told me. “It’s

Your brain is always twitching using the phone or checking emails–it can be a stumbling block to your creativity.”

As I spoke with Acharya regarding Dark Tuesday and its aftermath It was a great conversation.

I was struck by the number of the challenges that caused”blackout “hellish”

seemed solvable. Acharya confessed, for instance that his concerns regarding

Being out completely was eased by the simple practice of making calls

The White House each day to find out if there were any meetings that he required to attend.

Know about. It is possible that a dedicated assistant or junior player could

Handle this phone call. The second problem was meeting times,

However, this could be managed by an assistant or automated system.

scheduling system. It appeared that way, that it was possible to

keep the benefits of email blackouts while keeping out numerous

of the associated annoyances. “What do you think about this method of

Are you able to get it working?” I asked after explaining my suggestions for solutions. The line was silent.

The room was quiet for a few seconds. I had pitched an idea so preposterous–permanently

Working without email, Acharya’s brain was temporarily froze.

Acharya’s response was not shocking. The widely accepted assumption of

The modern-day knowledge work has been that email has saved us from changing the look of old-fashioned, stodgy office spaces, filled with secretaries writing messages on phones and

memos on paper that were delivered by mail carts are transformed into something more sleek and elegant.

efficient. Based on this assumption that you are overwhelmed by tools such as

If you’re using instant messenger or email It’s because your routines are unorganized:

You must run a batch of your inbox checks and switch off your notifications.

write clearer subject lines! If your inbox is getting very bad, then

Your entire company must adjust their “norms” regarding the issues

like response time expectations. The value that is the basis of the constant

Electronic communication, which is the basis of modern-day work but it’s not always

This is a question that needs to be addressed, since this could be extremely nostalgic and reactionary, just like

I am wishing for the past of the horse-drawn carriage or the romantic appeal of candlelight.

In this way Acharya’s Dark Tuesday experience was a

disaster. But what happens if this backwards? What if email wasn’t

Save knowledge, but instead inadvertently traded minor advantages

as a significant effect on actual productivity (not the frantic pace of life in the first place, but real

Results) results, which can lead to a slower growth of the economy in the last two decades?

What happens if the problems we face with these tools do not stem from easily fixed bad

behaviors and loose rules, rather, in the manner they change and

Incredibly, it changed the entire nature of our work? What could happen if Dark

Tuesday, or in other words it was not a major disaster however, it was a glimpse of the way things could go.

the most creative entrepreneurs and executives are organizing their

What will you do in the not too

-I’ve been obsessed by studying the ways in which email has broken the system for the last few years.

half decade. The pivotal turning stage in this journey occurred in the year 2016.

When I wrote my book entitled Deep Work, which went into becoming an international bestseller.

surprise hit. The book claimed that the knowledge industry was not properly valuing

concentration. The ability to quickly communicate with digital

messages is beneficial, and the frequent disruptions caused by this type of behavior is can be a problem.

It is difficult to concentrate this can have a larger influence on how we create

More valuable output than we have thought. I did not spend a lot of time working on

Deep Work trying to understand why we ended up getting lost in our inboxes

or suggesting changes to the system. I believed that this issue was in large part a result of

inadequate data. When organizations recognized the importance of

In my mind that they could easily change their actions to create an effective


I realized that I was too optimistic. When I traveled across the country

speaking about my book, having discussions with both employees and executives talking about my book, meeting with executives and employees

Writing more about these topics on my blog as well as on the pages of

newspapers such as The New York Times and The New Yorker, I came across a

A more nuanced and sombre knowledge of the current situation

the knowledge industry. Continuous communication isn’t something that is able to be incorporated into the

the way that real work is done and has been completely intertwined with how we do this work is done.

is actually accomplished, preventing simple efforts to cut down on distractions

Better habits or temporary strategies for managing such as email-free Fridays. Real

Improvement, it was evident that this would require a radical change to the way

We organize our professional activities. It became apparent that these changes would affect how

It’s not too late as email overload was a trend as a fashion

A source of irritation in the early 2000s, but it has since transformed into a much more

grave problem, which has reached the point who are suffering from it.

productivity is reduced to early mornings or even into the evenings

weekends, while their working days transform into Sisyphean combats with their

Inboxes are a unique method of accomplishing tasks.

My book was written as a way to address this problem. In order to unite, for the good of

the first time. Everything we have about how we got into the culture we are now in

continuous communications, as well as the effect it’s having on our

productivity and mental health, and to understand our most

captivating visions of what new kinds of work could be. The

the idea of a world without email was a radical idea to scare Nish Acharya off

guard. However, I’ve come to believe it’s not just possible but it’s actually

unavoidable, and my aim in my book will be to give an outline to help you achieve this

coming revolution. In order to better define what to expect from the

pages to come, we should get a better grasp of the issue we

The moment we stand.

-As email swept through the business world in the 1980s and 1990s, it

The company has introduced a new concept that was not previously seen: low-friction communications at size. This

New tool, the cost in terms of time as well as social capital to interact with

Anyone who is connected to the job you hold fell from high to nearly zero.

As author Chris Anderson notes in his 2009 book, Free, the dynamics of

the process of reducing costs to zero could be “deeply mysterious,”1

that helps to explain

Why did no one anticipate the transformations that are triggered by the arrival of the free

communication. We didn’t just shift our existing volume of voicemails,

Notes, faxes and faxes are sent to this modern, more efficient electronic medium; we

Completely transformed the workflow that decides how we

everyday efforts take place. We began to speak about our daily activities more than we did before.

like nothing else ever had before, smoothing out the large pattern of mechanical work

the activities in our lives that defined us an ongoing spread of continuous

chatter, merging with and blurring the edges of the things we were used to thinking of as

as well as the actual work we do.

A study estimates that in 2019, the average worker had sent

receiving 126 business email messages per day, which amounts to around one

messages every message every four minutes.2

A company that makes software called RescueTime

Recently, I have been able to measure this behavior by using a time-tracking program and

It was determined that the users were using email or instant messaging tools such as

Slack each six minute on average.3

An entire team of students of students from the University of

California, Irvine, ran the same experiment, observing the computer’s behavior

of 40 employees in the company’s largest during twelve working days. They discovered

that workers went through their email on average seventy-seven times the average time.

each day, with the largest user checking over 400 times per day.



A survey by Adobe found that workers with knowledge self-report

working for more than three hours per day to send and receive business


The problem, therefore, is not the tool , but the way to work it

introduced. In order to help us better comprehend this new workflow I’ll review it.

Name and definition:

It’s the Hyperactive Hive mind.

A workflow that is centered around continuous conversation that is fueled by unstructured

Unscheduled messages sent through electronic communication tools such as email

and instant messaging and instant messenger.

The hyperactive hive brain workflow has become a commonplace in

the knowledge sector. It doesn’t matter if you’re a programmer in the computer field, marketing

consultant or manager editor of a newspaper, consultant teacher, or consultant, the life is over.

focused on sustaining your organization’s continuous focus on the hive mind of your organization

conversation. It’s this process that leads us to consume more than three-quarters of our time in

Our inbox is open during the day to check on the status of messages each six minutes.

We’re all used to it however, when it’s viewed as a part of the larger context of recent

The past is a sign of an alteration in the way we work that is so radical it could be

It is absurd to let it be apprehensively ignored.

To be honest the hyperactive hive brain isn’t necessarily unwise.

One of the advantages of this process is that it’s easy and easy to use.

It is incredibly adaptable. One researcher told me, email’s innate ability to change is part of it.

The appeal was in the fact that this simple tool could be used to nearly any kind of

Knowledge work is a far less demanding learning curve than the need to master the basics of

distinct digital system bespoke to every kind of work. Unstructured

The use of conversation can also be a powerful method of identifying unanticipated

difficulties and rapidly responding quickly.

As I’ll show in the beginning of the book it’s the hyperactive bee mind

Email workflows, although natural, have been discovered to be

utterly ineffective. The reason for this failure is found in

our psychology. Beyond the small scale (say just two to three persons) it is a matter of

Unstructured collaboration just does not work with the way in which

The humans brain evolved over time to function. If your business relies on the

If you have a hive mind If you are a hive mind, you shouldn’t neglect your chat channels or inbox for all day

without slowing down the whole process without affecting the overall. This constant interaction

The hive mind is, however, dependent on you are constantly switching your focus

away from work, to talk about work, returning to work. As I’ll detail,

cutting-edge research in neuroscience and psychology uncovers that these

The mere fact that a context switch is they are only brief, result in a high price in the form of psychological

energy, reducing cognitive performance and causing an exhaustion feeling.

and decreased effectiveness. At present it is difficult to delegate tasks , or

Requesting feedback may seem like an attempt to streamline however, as I’ll demonstrate it is not.

In the long term will likely reduce productivity in the long run, which means more time and time

costs to achieve the same amount of work done.

In this initial part of my book, I’ll discuss the social aspect of

the hive brain’s work flow clashes against the circuits of socialization of our brains.

In all likelihood, you are aware of you have six hundred messages that are unread in your inbox

These messages are not important but you should are reminded that the people who sent these messages of these messages are not important, and you remind yourself that the senders of these

Have better things to do rather than sit in wait, stare at their screens, and

The frustration of the delay in your response. However, a more fundamental portion of the brain

evolved to help manage the intricate choreography of the social dynamic that have allowed our

species that have flourished so dramatically since the Paleolithic remains worried

through what it believes as being a lack of respect for by what it perceives to be a lack of respect for social obligations. In the sense of these are concerned

social networks are involved with your tribe, and members are trying to convince you to join them.

You’re paying attention but you’re not the event registers as an urgent.

The outcome of this continuous state of anxiety is the low-quality background hum

The anxiety that many inbox-bound workers have come to believe is

inexplicably, but it is an occurrence of the unlucky contradiction

between modern technology as well as our ancient brains.

The most obvious issue is why we’d ever choose to adopt a workflow that

There are a lot of negative aspects. As I will explain in the final part of Part 1.

The story of the development of the hyperactive mind is complex. Nobody knows the full story.

Then, it was decided to make it a great idea. it actually arose in a sense from its

our own choice. The belief that fast-paced communications are somehow

The term “work” is often the story that we create for ourselves

Understand sudden changes caused by complicated dynamic.

Knowing the arbitrary nature of how we are currently working, may help us to better understand

More than any other thing, it should inspire us to look for alternatives that are better. This, more than anything else, should be the reason we are here.

This is precisely what I am focusing to achieve in the second part of my book. In the second book I

Introduce a framework I refer to as Attention Capital Theory that makes a case for the creation of

workflows based on processes that are specifically designed to assist us to achieve

The most efficient use of our brains as humans, while also reducing unnecessary suffering. This

This may seem evident, but it does not conform to the conventional way of

The thought process of managing knowledge work. As I’ll demonstrate I’m driven by

concepts of the incredibly popular business marketer Peter Drucker, we tend

to see the knowledge workers as black boxes that are autonomous, ignoring the

specifics of how they accomplish their work accomplished and focusing instead on details of how they do their work and

They should be able to provide clear goals and a motivating leader. This is an error.

Potentially, there is a huge amount of productivity that is currently hidden in the information

sector. To unlock it , you’ll need more thought-through thinking about the best way to approach it.

It is best to arrange the basic purpose of collecting a set of humans.

Brains connected in networks to create the highest value possible in

the most sustainable method. It is important to note that the best solution will not involve

check email at least once at every 6 minutes.

The majority of Part 2 is devoted to a set of fundamentals that can be applied

Attention capital theory to create the workflows that power organizationalprocesses,

Teamwork, and individual effort in this direction, removing us from

hyperactive hive mind , and towards more structured strategies that steer clear of

the challenges of constant communication, as detailed in Part 1. A few of

Ideas that support these principles originate from the most cutting-edge examples of

companies are experimenting with new workflows that reduce

unscheduled communication. Some ideas can be derived from the ways of doing things that

allowed complex knowledge organizations to perform effectively in the midst of a changing world.

before digital networks.

The concepts described in the second part don’t require that you eliminate

communication technologies such as instant messenger or email. These tools

It is a great way to communicate. It could be a reactionary method to

Revert to less effective technologies in order to show off. However,

These principles will force you to eliminate digital messages from being constant

existence to something, which happens frequently. The world is without

The email address mentioned within the name of this book thus, isn’t an instance in which

protocols such as SMTP protocols like SMTP POP3 are eliminated. However, it is an area in which

you’re spending the majority of your time doing hard work instead of

discussing this work or bouncing around small tasks around in


This guidance is designed for a wide range of people. This is not just for children.

business leaders who want to revamp their organization’s processes or teams

seeking to operate more efficiently, solo entrepreneurs , and freelancers

trying to maximize their worth production, or even looking to increase the value of their employees

trying to make more of their personal communications habits

looking at them from the viewpoint of capitalist attention. So, in my

Examples span from the huge scale, with CEOs making radical adjustments

to the company’s culture on a smaller scale, like my own experimentation

by using systems borrowed from software development in order to move my

academic administrative tasks off my email and onto an organised


The advice in Part 2 is applicable to every circumstance. If you’re

Employee of a company which still worships at the altars of hyperactive

Hive mind, for instance it is only possible to make certain adjustments you can make to

Your own, without causing annoyance to your colleagues. A little care is

you must consider when choosing strategies to implement. (I do my best to

Help you make this choice by highlighting instances of how different

Principles have been applied to the particular situation.) Similar to if you’re a

Entrepreneurs who start up, you’ll be in a position to try out radical innovative

working processes are different than when your job is as the chief executive of a huge firm.

However, I am convinced that any person or company that begins to

be able to think deeply about the hyperactive hive brain process think critically about the hyperactive hive mind workflow, and then

It replaces all elements by processes that are more

that are compatible with the reality in the functioning of our brains will result in a significant

competitive edge. Work’s future is becoming cognizant. This is a good thing.

that the more we understand and take seriously the way that human brains work that the more we understand how brains actually function, and

Explore strategies that are most compatible with these realities, the faster we’ll

Realize that the hyperactive hive brain even though it’s convenient, it’s unwise choice.

Ineffective method to manage our efforts.

The book is not to be interpreted as anti-technology or reactionary. On the contrary the message it conveys is genuinely forward-looking. It

acknowledges that we must unlock the full potential of digital networks

professional settings, we need to continuously and relentlessly work to make the most of

what we do with how we use. The challenge of tackling the weaknesses of the hyperactive mind is

It is definitely not an act of Luddism, if it is, in fact, the actual obstacle is

the pace of progress is yielding to the simple comforts of this uninspiring process at the

cost of the need for further refinement.

In this sense that, a existence without email is not an improvement, but rather

take a step into the exciting technological future that’s just getting started

to comprehend. The work of knowledge does not currently have its Henry Ford, but

workflow improvements that have an impact of the same magnitude that the manufacturing line

These are the inevitable things that will happen. I’m not able predict all aspects of the future, however, I’m certain

It won’t require checking your inbox each six-minute period. The world is not complete does not exist without

The email will be coming soon and I’m hoping this book will make you just as excited about it.

the potential I have as I could be as I.

Part 1

The Case Against Email

Chapter 1

Email reduces productivity

Uncovering the Costs and Hidden Benefits of Hyperactivity Hive Mind

The first time I met Sean I met him and he told me a story that was familiar to me about the importance of communication

his work place. Sean was co-founder of a small tech company which was

created internal-facing software for large companies. His company

employed seven people in the London office. They were described as

Sean described itas extremely active members of the hyperactive hive mind.

workflow. “We were using Gmail open on a regular basis,” he told me.

“Everything was handled via the email.” Sean would start with the process of sending and receiving

messages as soon as you wake up, and continues throughout the night. One

Employee even asked Sean to not send emails as late, based on they had the information

of emails from his boss of messages from the boss was stressing him out.

Then the excitement shifted to the next gear. “There was all this excitement

About Slack and Slack, we decided to test it,” Sean remembered. The frequency of back and forth communication was increased, especially following a client’s demands

They were given with access to the channels which allowed them the ability to monitor their channel and to ask questions.

Questions whenever they feel they were feeling “Constant interruptions throughout the day.”

Sean might feel tension as his attention flits from work messages to

messages, and then back to wear the ability of his brain to concentrate. He increased his capacity to think clearly.

to dislike his phone’s notification to be annoyed by pings. “I disliked it. The sound sends

I felt shivers in my body,” he said. Sean was worried about the mental strain of managing everything gave

This communication was hindering the effectiveness of his business. “I would

work until 1 a.m. each the night,” he said, “because it was the only time that I

He felt completely free of distracted.” He began to doubt the validity of all this constant

Chatter was crucial to mission. The moment he conducted a analysis of his team’s Slack

In his research, he discovered that the most used option was one which is inserted

animated GIFs to chat conversation. Sean hit an all-time low at the time he introduced

Two of his project supervisors abruptly left. “They were burned out.”

Sean’s irritated sense of how all the digital chatter can make us feel more

The word “productive” turns out to be an everyday sentiment. In the fall of 2019 as a part of

of the research I conducted for of this book, I asked my readers to take part in of a survey

on the importance of email (and related tools such as Slack) in the workplace.

lives. Over 1,500 people participated and a lot of them shared Sean’s

The frustration is not with the tools but with them that are obvious

effective ways to communicate, however, using the hyperactive hive mind-style

workflows they allow.

One of the threads in these responses was about the huge amount of

the communication that is that is generated through the workflow. “Every day there’s a flurry of

emails about scheduling, deadlines, and so on. They’re not very often used.

efficiently,” wrote a lawyer known as Art. George who was also an attorney, wrote about his

Inbox is described as having “an an avalanche of messages” that contain important information

get lost.

Another thread discussed how inefficient it is to stretch

conversations into endless back and forth messaging. “The Asynchronous

Nature is both a blessing as well as a negative,” an analyst from the financial industry known as

Rebecca. “It is a blessing that I am able to ask an inquiry or assign an assignment

without the need to locate without having to find. It’s a curse the sense that it is a curse

We expect that we check emails on a regular basis and will promptly respond

quickly.” A IT project manager complained: “Simple

conversations (that could be resolved in the space of a few hours) are not always resolved in a timely manner.

eventually, they begin a long email thread that is seen by an ever-growing number of

List of the recipients.” An official service administrator pointed out that the move of these

interactions with digital messages digital messages can be “overly formal” and “less

innovative or up-to-date.” She elaborated: “A project or task which could be

fairly easily completed by an entire group of people working in the same

gets more complicated when trying to manage all the back-and-forth email communications.”

Another argument that is often used to justify email’s decreasing productivity is centered around

on its capability to increase the volume of irrelevant information that it can suddenly

makes you think about processing. “I’m annoyed that I get numerous updates . . .

That are not related to my job,” said a teacher who was named Jay.

“People today confuse checking their email with actual work,” an editor wrote.

The name Stephanie. Stephanie. “There is a performing aspect of writing emails, as well as

sending everyone a message, such as “Look at all my work that I’m doing. It’s irritating.” As

An HR consultant named Andrea stated: “In at least 50 percent of the messages you

There are still open questions. . . . It’s like the shooter was a person who just killed

away from an email, not worrying about how I would respond to the email without worrying about how I could respond to it.”

Like Sean’s tale the instant messaging tools such as Slack were not freed from the

hooks by my respondents according to what I was told by a lot of readers as being simply

emails with faster response times. “Slack is a simple series of messages.

It allows people to post virtually without restrictions,” wrote an executive

Coach identified as Mark. “It’s awful.”

The stories above obviously are not true. They are anecdotes. But , as I’ll discuss in the

on the next pages, as you pay attention to the research you need to do

Literature, it becomes apparent that the issues the respondents referred to in the literature are

much worse than the majority of people even more serious than most. Email may have made certain

specific actions that are much more effective specific actions, however, as the research will demonstrate that the

hyperactive hive mind brain workflow that the technology enabled has been an

catastrophe for productivity overall.

Constant, Constant Multitasking Craziness

In the 1990s, Gloria Mark enjoyed an impressive professional set-up.

Mark’s research was focused on a discipline called computer-aided

Collaboration and work (CSCW) collaborative work (CSCW) like the name suggests explores ways to improve the effectiveness of collaborative work (CSCW).

the latest technology is able to assist people to work more efficiently.

Although CSCW existed since at the very least the 1970s before it was established in the late 1970s.

with a particular focus on subjects that aren’t as important such as management information systems, and

Automation of processes, was given an influx of enthusiasm in the late 1990s when computers

Internet connectivity and networks enable the development of innovative ways to work.

At the period, Mark was a researcher at the German National Research

Center for Information Technology in Bonn in Bonn, where she was able to tell

Me “work at whatever would like to work on.” Practically speaking, it was translated into her “going

deep” on a limited number of projects at one time that were mostly focused on

novel collaboration software. Alongside many other things, Mark worked on a

hypermedia system called DOLPHIN designed to make meetings more enjoyable

Effective with a document-handling system called PoliTeam was a good idea.

to make it easier to manage paperwork within the government department. It was customary to reduce paperwork within a government ministry

Germany Lunch was the most important dinner for the day. As Mark explained, she

She would eat long meals with her coworkers, followed by long walks

The campus was awash with these “rounds”–to take in their food and do work

Through interesting through interesting. “It was gorgeous,” she told me. “The campus was beautiful.”

There was a castle there.”

The year 1999 was the time when Mark determined that it was the right time to go back to her homeland in the United States.

Both husband and wife had been offered academic positions with the University of

California, Irvine, so they left, waved goodbye to the endless stretch of

lengthy work that is that is accompanied by leisurely meals and afternoon strolls with the

castle, and then headed to the west. After arriving at an American academic position, Mark was

I was immediately was struck by how busy everyone was. “I experienced a difficult time.

focus,” she said. “I was overwhelmed with all these projects to tackle.” Then there was the long

the meals she ate lunches she enjoyed in Germany were the meals she enjoyed in Germany became a distant memories. “I only had

It was time to take a sandwich or a salad to eat lunch,” she added, “and when I returned,

I could imagine my colleagues at work doing similar things eating lunch in

on their computer screens.” I am interested in finding out the extent to which these are.

The way of working had changed. Mark convinced a local know-how sector

company to permit the research group to observe 14 students from the company.

employees working for more than three hours watching at their shoulders, and focusing on the exact

keeping track of the way they spent their time. This resulted in a well-known paper

or infamous, depending on your perspective–presented at a 2004

Computer-human interaction conference with an intriguing title that includes quotes from

A research subject’s description of her typical day at work: “Constant,

Constant, Multi-tasking Craziness.”1

“Our study confirms the findings of a lot of our colleagues and us already know.

have been observing informally for some time: that work on information is extremely

The paper is fragmented.” Mark and her co-author, Victor Gonzalez, write in the paper’s

Discussion section. “What amazed us was precisely how dispersed the discussion section was.”

work.” The central finding from the study is after you have eliminated formally

planned meetings, the employees they supervised were able to shift their focus to

A new task is introduced every three minutes , on an average. Mark’s experiences of

Then she was caught in a variety of directions, she finally arrived in

California wasn’t unique to her, but it was an all-encompassing

Property is beginning to appear in the realm of knowledge work.

When I was asking Mark the reason for this fragmentation She replied

Quickly: “Email.” She reached this conclusion partly in part, by re-reading

the relevant the relevant literature. Since the 1960s at most the researchers have been

monitoring the way managers spend their time at work. Although managers are the

The categories they tracked have evolved over time There are two categories.

The most important types of efforts that are consistent “scheduled meeting” and

“desk to work.” Mark pulled out the results on the two categories in a

The series of papers began in 1965, and concluding with an update in 2006 to her

The original study of multitasking.

When Mark combined these results into a single table and a clear trend emerged.

emerged. From 1965 until 1984, employees who studied were able to spend around 20

The majority of their time is spent in desk work , and about 40 percent of them are in

scheduled meeting. Based on studies conducted since 2002, these figures are approximately

swap. What’s the explanation for this shift? As Mark notes, the reason lies in the space between

the studies conducted in 1984 and 2002, “email became widespread.”2

As email became a part of the modern workplace, employees were no longer required

to be in the same room with their coworkers to talk about their tasks, in the same way

You can now trade electronic messages at any time that is you find it convenient. Because

Email counts as “desk working” when we look at these study, but we also find time spent at desks

The amount of work you do increases as the time you spend in scheduled meetings declines. Unlike scheduled

meetings, but discussions held via email flow

asynchronously–there’s usually a gap between when a message is sent and

In the end, the interactions that were compacted were once ascribed to

Synchronous meetings are now dispersed into a broken time of fast

checking inboxes throughout the day. In Mark Gonzalez’s research, they were able to check inboxes throughout the day.

the average meeting scheduled took around forty-two minutes. In contrast, the

average amount of time spent in the email inbox prior to changing to something different

was just two minutes and 22 seconds. Interactions now occur in

small pieces of material, separating the other activities that comprise the typical

The day of the knowledge worker.

It’s there, then in these nondescript data tables taken from CSCW papers.

Published more than an entire decade back, is where we can find the first studies to be conducted

The evidence supports the hyperactive hive-mind theory I have outlined in the book’s

introduction. However, we shouldn’t put too much importance on the mere fact that it’s an

One study. It is fortunate for us that it was about the same time Gloria Mark

started to research how technologies for communication were changing

research, researchers started asking similar questions.

The paper from 2011 that appeared in the Journal of Organization Studies replicated

Mark Gonzalez’s groundbreaking work involved shadowing 14 teens

employees of the workplace of an Australian Telecommunications company. Researchers

It was found that, on average, the workers who they monitored divided their working hours

to the eighty-eight different “episodes,” sixty of which were dedicated to


They summarized the data as follows: “These data . . . appear to offer assistance

to the idea that knowledge workers are dispersed

working days.” In the year 2016 the same paper, co-authored with Gloria Mark, her team

utilized tracking software to observe the behavior of employees during the course of a study.

department of a large company and discovered that they had looked up email, and on

average, over seventy-seven times per day.