The nearly-anonymous Craig Roth has an interesting article today about Email Interruptions as Avoidance Mechanism for Cognitive Dissonance
I have noticed that I often feel the urge to check email when I feel stuck or bogged down in a long-running project I’m doing or complex piece of work. I could rack this up to looking for a distraction to clear my head or avoiding the unpleasantness of feeling stuck. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think that our need to accomplish tasks - to get things done - is challenged by the increase in information work with undefined goals and processes and that email is being used like a drug to get a hit of accomplishment when one feels he is spinning his wheels.
On the distraction / avoidance side, it's not only email that gives us this out. It's IM and micro-blogging and reading blogs and whatever else we can use that has a "hey there is something new here" blinking light.
On the other side of this discussion is the fantasy of "getting SOMETHING done is better than getting THIS thing done." It's the center of the problem of multitasking too. We believe that as long as we are making progress on something, that the projects on which we are working must be moving forward. Nope. It is much better to get the entire task done before switching to something else. This is the power of setting aside time for those interruptions, instead of letting them drag us away when something difficult arises.
Note to Craig: put your name on your blog! I had to jump through several hoops before finding it on your company website. Oh, And we should meet for coffee sometime. We live near each other.