Instant Messenger … A Weapon of Mass Distraction!

July 25, 2007

If you had a coworker who constantly barged into your office, and started blabbering on and on every time you were right in the middle of something important … I’d tell you its time to give him or her the finger (see it’s ok to give people the finger at work).


By neglecting to manage your status in your instant messaging application, you’re just begging to be interrupted.

There’s no way we’d stand for such disruptive behavior. Yet, we let it happen with IM (Instant Messaging) all the time. If you’ve ever used IM, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Right when you’re in the middle of typing something, you get pinged and the next thing you know you’re typing in the comments section of the IM. Not only is this annoying, it’s extremely distracting and unproductive.

Not that I hate IM, I think it can be a great tool when managed properly. I personally use it sparingly since I’m distraction prone enough without it. But IM is here to stay, and its becoming more popular every day. So let’s discus some best practices for using IM.

  1. Proactively manage your status. Most Instant Messenger applications (AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Trillian) have status settings like, “I’m away”, “I’m in a meeting”, “on the phone”, etc. Use them!
  2. If your IM has a setting for keeping conversation logs, turn it on. That way you’ll be able to track important conversations. Plus their searchable (see Desktop Search Tool Revolution).
  3. Don’t use IM as a prioritization tool. First of all, computers still do freeze and need to be rebooted. So if you’re depending on an IM window as you’re only prompt to remind you to get something done, you might get hosed on a reboot.

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