Our No IMs & Tweets Experiment

A little over 3 weeks ago we conducted an experiment to see how instant
messaging (IM) and Twitter posts affected company work flow and


IMs and personal tweets may be
negatively affecting our efficiency

not using personal & work IM tools at workstations. Voluntarily not
accessing personal Twitter account(s) during work.

Length of

3 weeks, 2 days and counting

The following information about positive and negative effects was gathered during a brief company-wide discussion.


  • Increased ‘in the zone’ time
  • Less distractions without
    multiple conversations going on at once
  • “I saved at least 1.5 hours a day”
  • I
    learned to use the speaker phone
  • Long questions were better answered face-to-face, than through IM
  • Sending non-timely information by email rather than IM
    proved more effective, especially to groups
  • Learned to discern the value of
    a question, versus interrupting someone or having to get up and ask
  • Grouped non-timely questions into a list and then approached the individual to get everything taken care of at
  • Eliminating personal tweets saved time
  • “Dave didn’t bug me” (and I gently weep)
  • More
    organized, less frenzied

Negative effects:

  • Verbal
    interruptions were more disruptive than IMs
  • More stressful; no
    breaks in the work flow
  • Physically checking to see if you could talk to
    someone was a waste of time
  • Physically interrupting someone cued the
    instinct to make small talk and waste time (being polite)
  • Short questions and information, like sending links or code, is better with IM
    than e-mail
  • “Felt like I
    was in jail” (was not aware that anyone here had that experience for
  • Missed distractions as tool for inspiration; as something
    that cleared the mind and helped creativity
  • IMs were more effective than
    email for sending code snippets and links
  • Waiting on an email to answer questions or requests was less effective than IMs
  • Felt more
    comfortable because inappropriate private IM conversations weren’t
    taking place


When asked if you have been
more or less efficient in your work during this experiment:

– 11 staff
members say they have been more efficient during the experiment
– 2 staff
members say they have been less efficient during the experiment


– Most
notable increases in productivity came from management positions
– ‘Creatives’
were affected negatively more than non-creative staff. Some complained
of stress without distractions

– Instituting beta
test of Campfire IM tool by 37 Signals
– Continue to not utilize
personal IM accounts and personal twitter accounts
– Monitor our usage,
share our experience and adjust accordingly

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