That time is money. Computer chip giant Intel, for one, has estimated that e-mail overload can cost large companies as much as $1 billion a year in lost employee productivity.
If the problem of interruptions is left unchecked,
it will occupy the entirety of the workday by 2031.
The interruption epidemic is reaching a crisis point at some companies and shows no sign of slowing. E-mail volume is growing at a rate of 66 percent a year, according to the E-Policy Institute.
"Technology is an addiction," says Gayle Porter, a professor of management at Rutgers University who has studied e-compulsion. "If someone can't turn their BlackBerry off, there's a problem.
Here's how the brain behaves when your attention slips away from a task:
In her 2009 book "Rapt," Winifred Gallagher argues that humans are the sum of what they pay attention to: What we focus on determines our experience, knowledge, amusement, fulfillment. Yet instead of cultivating this resource, she says, we're squandering it on "whatever captures our awareness." To truly learn something, and remember it, you have to pay full attention.