“No Laptop.” This was one of the rules which was agreed upon at the Certified Scrum Master course I just took this week. In the first place I was a bit surprised. What if there is an urgent e-mail coming in? What if one topic is not of much interest and I’d like to use the time to get a few tasks done?
An unusual situation for me as nowadays writing e-mails and surfing the web is an accepted activity during meetings or presentations.
Looking back at the the course the rule completely made sense to me. Provided that the meeting is well run (sadly, that’s rarely the case) there are advantages of banning the distraction. Here’s why:
Multitasking is an illusion
We think that we can read e-mails and listen to the speaker at the same time. We think that we’ll save time that way. However, this is an illusion. Not only is the perceived multitasking basically a switch between multiple tasks done in a sequential order. But also the switching causes considerable costs as the brain is forced to pause and refocus continuously as one switches between tasks. We don’t save time. We are wasting it. (Source: Wikipedia)
Making decisions is exhausting
If laptops or mobile phones are allowed we are constantly asking ourselves whether we should now check the e-mails or pay attention to the speaker. We are constantly weighting the risk of missing some information the speaker is giving us against the risk of missing a very important e-mail. This constant decision-making process is exhausting. The “No-Laptop” rule relieves you from this tedious work.
Meetings will be shorter
In the case of meetings there is an additional benefit of “no-laptop rule”: People are always attentive. Situations like “oh, could you repeat that please. I wasn’t listening” don’t happen anymore. Participants don’t have to repeat themselves and the meeting will be finished on time. Shorter meetings: Who doesn’t like that?
That’s why in the meetings I run I will encourage the no-laptop rule. It feels old-fashioned. But at the end everyone benefits from it.