I want to thank everyone who shared their experiences with Instant Messaging. The results weren’t all that surprising, but I find it interesting to read how others use IM.
h3. IM and productivity rarely mix
I’ve been experimenting on my own over the last few weeks, and that–combined with your feedback–leads me to the conclusion that IM might be a real problem for people trying to be productive. There is no doubt that it’s a useful tool–under the right circumstances.
For personal communication it’s pretty cool and there is no doubt there are times when it can be just the thing.
Unfortunately it seems that more than anything else it’s a constant distraction that eats time. The biggest issue, that I can see anyway, is that there is almost no way to triage incoming messages. Sure you can block people, or set your status, but if you have it open and are receiving incoming IMs you have no way to keep from dealing with things that come in.
With a phone you can let it go to voice mail. With e-mail you can respond at your leisure. Not so with IM. Even if you’re ok with leaving people hanging there is almost a pressure to respond. It’s like bees in your head.
The only true way to avoid this problem is to turn it off.
My advice for those who use IM and are having problems getting things done — don’t use it anymore. If you do use it, only use it when you choose to use it and keep it off when you’re trying to focus. My feeling is that the disadvantages of IM far outweigh it’s advantages, at least when it comes to work.
I do think it can be a great tool if used sparingly and under “controlled” circumstances, but as an open communication channel it’s really not good unless you’re wanting to chat or have time to kill.