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  • Ian Price

Why “100% Uptime” doesn’t work for Knowledge Workers


It’s been a great couple of weeks for hearing about what science can tell us about the way in which we work and live our lives. The How to Academy has doubled down on its Dans in the last few days with both Pink and Ariely speaking to London audiences about their latest books. For those fortunate to attend, there are lessons if we’re prepared to listen.

Dan Pink’s latest book, When. The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, includes a really compelling summary on the science of breaks at work and their impact on cognitive performance. It turns out that if we take regular breaks, our performance improves and if our breaks take us outside and if we have company (we are social animals after all) then the impact on our performance is greater still.

I’ve long been an advocate to clients of Francisco Cirrillo’s Pomodoro Technique which advocates using a kitchen timer. I use my phone timer for 45 minute stretches of work followed by 15 minute breaks. When focused on work, my phone is on airplane mode and my email is offline.

As Dan Ariely mentioned last night, our cognitive performance drops the more we are interrupted by our phones. Even if we are aware of it vibrating but don’t check, it drops. Interestingly, our performance even drops if the phone is off but sitting next to us.

And yet the prevailing norms in organisations is to celebrate uptime as if our people were hosting services or payment systems. In the same week that I was lucky enough to hear from the two Dans, I heard about Soylent, the company that offers processed meal substitutes in a bottle. On it’s website, it purrs: “..when you’re busy, it takes eating off your plate.”

Lunch anyone?


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