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Human Factors

In looking at an interruption, it is important to determine whether something is important, urgent, or both.  Many knowledge workers simply do not differentiate, or see everything as both important and urgent.  Something that is important may not require an immediate interruption, whereas something that is urgent would certainly be more likely to merit and surely call for an interruption.  Importance can also vary, based on the needs of the group or organization.

Even more important to note is the fact that each knowledge worker has different priorities, different tasks, and a different idea of what is urgent or important.  What is urgent and/or important to me at a given moment might not be as urgent and/or important to you.

Knowledge workers may be constantly busy, but that doesn’t make them productive or efficient.  It also doesn’t mean that what they are doing is aligned with the strategic goals of their employer.

Sometimes a knowledge worker might feel like a ping pong ball, bouncing around from task to task.  The unending barrage of work – be it e-mail, meetings, or teleconferences – just like the Tetris squares, never stops.

Very few knowledge workers could tell you everything on their plate – including priorities and deadlines.  The task management tools that come with Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook leave a lot to be desired and project management tools that companies use to guide large projects also don’t offer a worker-based view that would help an individual knowledge worker plan and prioritize.

Still, knowledge workers can be their own worst enemy.  The majority of knowledge workers tend to open new e-mail immediately upon notification.