Technology = making the treadmill move faster

A study supported by Acco Brands — the Day Timer organizers company — says that Americans feel much less productive than they did years ago.

It’s not that they’re objectively getting less done. According to the U.S. Conference Board, labor productivity overall grew at an annual rate of about 2.9 percent between 2000 and 2004. That’s respectable, if not spectacular, trailing Japan, but exceeding Europe substantially.

The Day Timer folks are instead tapping into the problem of expectations. Email, IM, cell phones and 24-hour workplaces have made everything move faster. People expect more from themselves, and managers expect more. Workers set out a plan for the day, which is quickly disrupted by email and other electronic interruptions.

Two ways to adapt to this: Carve out time to turn things off. That’s critical, if we ever want sustained thought. And the rest of the time, learn to surf, instead of fighting the electronic waves.