When I took on the topic of reflective thinking a few years back, I had the good fortune to meet Jonathan Spira. He is the CEO of a very cool company named Basex based out of NYC. They study knowledge workers at a level I have not seen elsewhere and they understand technology’s costs and benefits through a unique analytical lens.
Jonathan allowed me to quantify my hunch that reflection was being given short shrift versus immediate response and action bias. He stunned me when he shared the results of their 2008 study that showed that only 10% of a knowledge workers day was spent thinking and reflecting. Yet their day includes nearly three times as much interruption and distraction– mostly from information overload.
He stunned me again this week. Basex has just released their 2010 study of knowledge workers and have concluded that reflection and think time make up just 5% of any given day. The implications within this study are rarely discussed. We all just accept that world moves at this pace and creates such situations. In my view this is a stunning set of data that leaders in firms must look at and then take action on. My book presents a set of answers to all that is implied below. Here is Jonathan’s full blog post:
Knowledge workers are nowhere near as productive, efficient, or effective as they could be – and this is in part due to the problem of Information Overload.
- 66% of knowledge workers feel they don’t have enough time to get all of their work done.
- Over 50% of knowledge workers feel that the amount of information they are presented with on daily basis is detrimental to getting their work done.
- 94% of those surveyed at some point have felt overwhelmed by information to the point of incapacity.
- 30% of knowledge workers have no time at all for thought and reflection during their day, and 58% had only between 15 and 30 minutes.
A typical day in the life of the knowledge worker is comprised less of traditional work and more of a frenetic pace that intermingles people and technology interruptions with attempts to create content, find things, and attend meetings.
The Knowledge Worker’s Day:
25% – Information Overload
19% – Content creation
19% – Reading content
17% – Meetings/Phone Calls/Social Interaction
10% – Search and Research
5% – Personal time
5% – Thought and reflection
For our purposes, we define content to include e-mail related tasks, so e-mail time is essentially split between the content creation and reading content percentages. It is interesting to note as well that the vast majority of knowledge workers spend between 30 minutes and no time at all managing their inboxes.
Since the underpinnings of knowledge work are thought and reflection, it’s ironic that these activities take up a mere 5% of the day, and Information Overload, the thing that holds the knowledge work back, occupies the greatest part of the day.