Is the immediacy of today’s business world making us more productive — or just more crazy?

I don’t know about you, but I think about this a lot.

Sometimes it’s someone else asking me for an immediate response. If their question lingers in my inbox for too long (hours rather than minutes) they are likely to become impatient. Sometimes it’s ME asking for immediacy. And I’m the one who gets impatient.  I see both sides. Either way, our expectations for speed are off the chart.

I used to think that sending and receiving email from my computer was fast enough.  It definitely beats snail mail.  It flows quickly into my inbox and just as quickly can flow out again – if I’m paying close attention.

But I was wrong. When not sitting at my desk and looking at my computer, a sea of emails could arrive, unannounced and unanswered. Minutes, hours or even DAYS could go by. Not so immediate.

Moving forward, the next big thing was funneling emails into our cell phones. No need to sit at a desk. No laptop needed. We could see and handle emails ALL THE TIME. Potentially, we could be on-call 24-7 with NO DOWN TIME.

Good news? Not really. I wasn’t too enamored with this immediacy but hey, that’s what technology delivered so I’ve adapted.  The era of having down time while we are out of the office is illusive. Are we more productive? Sure, in a crisis situation. It’s useful to be able to reach people more easily with urgent messages. Otherwise, I have to think having down time ultimately made us more productive.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more immediate, it did. Today, if we know someone’s cell number and there is urgency, texting is the way to go. In our personal lives we can control the speed with which we respond. But at work, ignoring a text from a client or an employer is worse than ignoring an email on your cell phone.  Even a busy CEO is likely to respond to a text – yet he or she may not return a call or an email.

Back to my original musing.  Are we more productive? Or just more crazy?