Marijuana Trumps Blackberries for Productivity… and Amazon Challenge


This guy gets more done than your CTO
(photo credit: Indian Gypsy)

My first article for Huffington Post made it onto the homepage today: Marijuana Trumps Blackberries for Productivity. Here is some food for thought:

Millions of Blackberry users in the US were left without their favorite drug from 8pm EST Tuesday to 6am EST Wednesday last week, when technical problems at service provider Research In Motion cut off wireless e-mail access. Some fumed, but others took a deep breath of relief. The brief escape was relished by a growing number of users who have realized that this digital leash often kills productivity instead of increasing it.

Not convinced? Let’s compare Blackberries to the top anti-productivity product of all-time: good old-fashioned marijuana.

In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.

In a digital world of infinite distraction, it is “single-tasking” — shutting out interruption instead of facilitating it — that will save us. What’s the alternative? Checking e-mail once every five minutes, then every minute, then every second? It’s not a scalable coping mechanism.

The world doesn’t hiccup, let alone end, if you check e-mail twice a day instead of twice an hour. If it does, it usually means that your work culture rewards overwork to counter its own ineffectiveness. This is predicated on burnout and not a game worth winning. The next time you get the Crackberry urge, consider the option of being productive instead of being busy. Or, if that’s too abstract, consider grabbing a joint instead — you’ll probably get more done.


AMAZON CHALLENGE: The 4-Hour Workweek has been hovering around #105 for four days on Amazon, and now it’s officially on-sale! Please help me break the #100 barrier — I can’t let The Official Guide for GMAT Review beat me! If you’re even remotely interested in automating and outsourcing your life, I guarantee you this book will open your eyes to some amazing new options: Please help me break the #100 barrier!

Posted on: April 24, 2007.

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37 comments on “Marijuana Trumps Blackberries for Productivity… and Amazon Challenge

  1. Blackberry and email cocaine.

    My boss is a coke head when it comes to email. I had the tragic situation where he made me sit and explain why emails were coming to his blackberry and not to his PC and vice versa.


  2. Firstly, where is the link to the dope head research, anyone can say that “there’s some research that…etc”. I heard some research on Radio 4 once that said people who smoked marijuana were better drivers because paranoia set in and they slowed down ….no link though :-)

    Secondly, having read this and agreed, I went to my Apple Mail program and found that the least frequent setting is only one hour!


  3. Err, I bought it on Amazon but it says it won’t arrive for another 3 or 4 days so I went to Borders and picked it up today. I think I might send the extra copy to my i-banker friend – he needs it


  4. I was so impressed with what I read on about your book (testimonials and reviews), I bought 3. I know 2 business friends who could use it. Can’t wait to get it. Sounds like you’re talking to me! Hope this helps you move on up at! Have a great one! Best, Jeff


  5. Tim,

    I listened to the podcast of your presentation at SXSW, having been previously inspired by Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness”:

    I’m currently hovering with my productivity levels, but I’ve managed to master a 20 hour work week, according to Russell’s advice.

    I’m following your zen for the email checking and the peace of mind is like a calm sea after a rough storm. I don’t even think the auto-responder is necessary – I’ve been replying twice a day for two weeks now and I don’t think anybody has noticed anything in the difference.

    Now I just need to filter out the noise from the blogosphere and get myself off of Netvibes!


  6. I bought the book at B&N brick and mortar store. I picked it up, read the introduction and immediately headed to the cash register. Devourd the book in 1 sitting. AM now going thrugh the book and implementing the inital steps like getting a Passport and Clear card.


  7. As a counterpoint to the referenced study, do a Google search on “continuous partial attention”. This seems to be a new skill which many attempt, but only some do well.

    I’ve been on conference calls with co-workers and customer employees at the same time as having an out-of-band chat online (eg, IM, IRC) with these same co-workers (excluding the customer) so as to better prepare a response to the customer. I’m sure some of you have done this yourselves. But my manager has surprised me on multiple occasions where he can seemingly converse on the call with flawless composure and awareness, at the same time as carrying on a text-based discussion with us in a chat room. I can type pretty quickly, but my attention tends to shift either to what I’m typing/reading or to what I’m saying/hearing. (For those of you who suffer from PHBs, I understand your frustration, but regrettably I won’t be sending my manager to take over your department. ;-) )

    So yeah… continuous partial attention. Check it out.


  8. Dear Tim:

    I just finished your whole book and I am impressed. I work in a service job (as a psychologist) and I now realize that I will never make the kind of money I want to make unless I create a product. I could write a book, design a T-shirt, or sell some kind of biofeedback tool, but your book was a shift in consciousness for me. I do contain my service work to only three days a week of direct client time. (I believe that alone is what keeps me sane in an insane job). Do you have any advice for the new entrepreneur who is moving from service to product based work? Also, I was curious because you give hints in your book but then never tell the full story of your own biography… Did you ever finish your thesis at Princeton? Do you do coaching on marketing? I would be interested. Thanks for your contribution. –Sharon, Mother, psychologist, entrepreneur