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So how many e-mails do you receive in a day? And how much time do you devote to these and other electronic intrusions?

According to an article, "Blunt the e-mail interruption assault", the average desk-bound worker loses 2.1 hours of productivity every day to interruptions and distractions, largely in the form of e-mail alerts, instant messages, buzzing BlackBerrys and cell phones. And the intrusions are nearly constant. Based on research by RescueTime, a firm that develops time-management software, a typical office employee checks e-mail 50 times a day and uses instant messaging 70 times.

And you know the next part: Time is money. Some experts estimate that e-mail overload can cost large companies up to $1 billion a year in lost productivity. The interruptions pull employees from the task at hand, chipping away at their attention spans, increasing stress and diminishing job satisfaction and creativity.

Then there’s the myth of multitasking. It’s not always the sign of a hard-working, hyper-efficient employee. Rather, science tells us that trying to tackle two or more thinking tasks at once (such as reading e-mail while on the phone with a client) taxes the brain, causes mistakes and can lead to burnout.

So what can you do to slow down the electronic onslaught and encourage employees to step out of their electronic bubble? Here are some suggestions:

=> A high-tech software company created Quiet Time, where the engineers work alone for four hours in the morning, with no message and phone contact allowed.

=> Companies like U.S. Cellular and Deloitte & Touche promote less e-mail use, encourage more face-to-face contact and have developed programs like “no e-mail Friday”

=> Put yourself on an electronic diet, only checking e-mails manually at your desktop and only three or four times a day at prescribed hours

=> Ask your staff to communicate with you by phone and to think twice before sending e-mail unless it’s important that the information be in writing (if you’re only checking e-mail a few times a day, your staff will learn not to expect an instant reply)

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