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Breaking News: The News Cycle Is Hurting Our Productivity


On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your overall productivity level this week?

Come on, be honest. You've been downloading the latest tweets, scrolling through comments, and hiding news sites as a manager walks past!

Maybe you're self-employed or telecommute. Either way, good luck staying focused this week. I made the mistake of working in a room with a television tuned to MSNBC yesterday. Stop watching the news and focus, I told myself. I accomplished the short list of things I wanted to get done, but not as much as I would have liked because the news cycle was spinning into overdrive.


Then again, I'm a journalist. Looking for the latest, greatest breaking news updates on and off all day is what I do. If I were left on a deserted island and could bring only one item, it would be a rechargeable tablet with a fast internet connection so I could refresh various news sites on the fives. (And contact my loved ones, of course.)

A recent employee survey commissioned by software company BetterWorks found that the current political environment is impacting our productivity at work. Of the 500 full-time American employees surveyed, a whopping 87% are reading political social media posts during the work day. Meanwhile, almost half have witnessed a political argument at work.

And the kicker: more than one-quarter (29%) surveyed said they have been less productive at work since January 20. One wonders what the numbers would look like if the survey were to be conducted again this week.

The Trump presidency is a potent productivity trap that we need to talk about, if only to keep ourselves focused in these strange, dark times of national political discourse. The pace of breaking news is like crack cocaine for the concerned citizen. The question is: how can we stay focused as employees as the centipede drops another shoe? How should we respond when a co-worker or customer blurts out: "Did you hear what he said this time?"

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Of course, you can always say that you don't want to talk about it, and maybe your company has a "no political talk" policy to back it up. Besides, you already know what he said, because you read about it online during your lunch break.

I don't have any advice here, because my phone just beeped with a breaking news alert. Like any addiction, the first step is admitting the problem. The warp-speed news cycle will resolve itself in due time, because we can't keep up this pace of breaking news much longer. Four months feels like five years.

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