Study: Email overload hurts IQ more than marijuana use

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Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.

According to a study of 1,100 Britons, conducted by TNS Research ( and commissioned by Hewlett Packard (

  • Half of workers respond to an e-mail within an hour, survey found.
  • The constant interruptions reduce productivity and leave people feeling tired and lethargic
  • Almost two out three people check their electronic messages out of office hours and when on holiday
  • Half of all workers respond to an e-mail within 60 minutes of receiving one
  • One in five will break off from a business or social engagement to respond to a message.
  • Nine out of 10 people thought colleagues who answered messages during face-to-face meetings were rude, while three out of 10 believed it was not only acceptable, but a sign of diligence and efficiency.
  • In 80 clinical trials, Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London University, monitored the IQ of workers throughout the day. He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.

"This is a very real and widespread phenomenon," Wilson said. "We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness.

"Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working."

Wilson said the IQ drop was even more significant in the men who took part in the tests.

"This is very, very real; but it is not a new phenomenon." Adam Boettiger, an author, publisher and professional coach to executives on time management and managing email overload says. "I've suspected the connection and witnessed it first-hand for years. Why this is a significant find is because (to my knowledge) it is the first clinical study that makes the connection."

In addition to professional coaching, Boettiger also publishes "Digital Ocean", a web site and email newsletter offering strategies, tips and articles on how to manage life in an always-on world.

Adam Boettiger is a recognized expert on information overload and email management. Based in Portland, Oregon, he coaches executives and other business email users on time management, information overload and email overload.

He publishes Digital Ocean,, a free email newsletter and web site offering tips, tricks, resources and strategies that help readers around the world learn how to manage life in an always-on, digital world.

Mr. Boettiger has been involved with email since 1992 and the web since 1995 in a variety of capacities, including advising hundreds of businesses on how to effectively reach customers online through responsible marketing campaigns.

A national and international public speaker, he has served on the board of directors for an anti-spam organization, was an advisor to the Oregon State District Attorney's office during the drafting of Oregon's state anti-spam legislature and publishes "Digital Ocean", an email newsletter on time management, information overload, email overload and life management in a digital world.

Contact Information:

Adam Boettiger, President

Digital Ocean

(503) 296-2627

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