I’ve never been a big user of chat, but I know many people who are and recently I was cajoled into trying to make myself more available to others via iChat. For the most part I find chat applications to be very useful and I see them as potential time savers if used in the right way. However, as I’m coming to learn, they’re also one of the worst things you can do to yourself if your trying to be productive.
I find that as soon as I make myself “available” I’m flooded with requests to chat. Now, I’m a decent multi-tasker and can handle several conversations at once, but I’d be kidding myself (and lying to y’all) if I said I actually made any headway on other things while chatting.
It’s funny because when I’m at conferences I see all sorts of people with their chat windows up during presentations. I have to wonder why they bother attending, I mean, you can’t get the most out of a presentation while your attention is sucked in by a screen and iChat. I’ve taken to leaving my computer in the bag during presentations I actually want to get something out of, but that’s a different post.
No, chat is a serious threat to your productivity and I think the only way around it is to not use it when you need to focus on the task at hand. Don’t even tempt yourself. I tried putting a clever away message (“Working, I may ignore you”) up, thinking that I’d only have people contact me if it was important. Didn’t work, and even if it was important, as soon as I hear that little “ding” my concentration is shot. Nope, better off not even going there.
The moral? If you are a frequent user of chat, and you are having trouble getting things done, you might try turning it off for extended periods of time. I know it helps me.