Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Losing Your Focus?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post while reporting from London, where I was filming two completely different projects, plus keeping up online with other clients. So it was no surprise that I’ve been thinking a lot about multi-tasking. 10 years ago we thought it was hot for all of us high profile and productive worker bees. But now, researchers are confirming that multi-tasking is the perfect recipe for dropping productivity and poor quality. The article “Help! I’ve Lost My Focus” by Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe in the January 16th issue of Time is one of the best pieces I’ve read on the subject.

Some of the interesting points they bring up:

— In a world becoming dominated by Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), doctors are finding that a Blackberry, cell phone, and e-mail filled office creates people who exhibit symptoms of ADD in certain high pressure situations. They call it “Attention-Deficit-Trait”. In other words, technology is causing people to become ADD in their behavior while in work environments.

–55% of workers say they open incoming e-mails immediately. Most people don’t even think about turning off the dinger and dealing with e-mail when it’s convenient or productive.

–Employees devote an average of only 11 minutes to a project before they’re interruped by the dinger of a new e-mail. Then, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on track – if they get back at all.

–The workers in the study were juggling an average of 12 projects apiece.

The Time story is in the archives now, but it’s worth paying the price to pull it out and read. Stop losing so much productivity and quality to multi-tasking, and experiment with the old fashioned way of focusing on one thing until it’s finished. We have to stop thinking we’re at everyone’s beck and call, and realize that it’s OK to be inaccessible for parts of the day.

I used to film around the world before cell phones and beepers. I would be gone an entire month to the headwaters of the Amazon River with no communicaton at all, or travel for weeks with the Bedouins in the deserts of the Middle East and be completely out of contact. Guess what? The world didn’t come to an end.

Last month, I had a software glitch, and my entire e-mail inbox disappeared. Gone. Blitzed. But after I got over the shakes, I realized that I didn’t lose a single client, no one called upset, and I didn’t miss anything. That was quite a realization. Try it yourself. Go incognito for awhile and experience the joys of silence…

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  1. It’s amazing to me that no matter how much I write, or talk about silence and the importance of a sabbath, that I have a hard time with it. Silence, disconnection is so out of the norm today, that it’s hard for even those of us who know it’s important, and desire those things, to actually acheive silence, and solitude.

  2. Great post, thanks. It’s amazing how different people manage the technologies that allow us to “on” all the time.

    The great thing about these tools is that they do allow us to manage our time better. Think back to when the telephone was the primary way that business communication happened. If you didn’t stop what you were doing and pick up the phone, you might miss a business opportunity.If you stepped away from your desk, you might miss that call.

    Now, we have texts, internet everywhere, email access wherever we go. These tools afford us the option to use them when it’s convenient.Now, instead of stopping midstream, we can finish up that project before moving on to The Next Big Thing.

    Now it’s up to each person to manage these tools, not let the tools manage them.

  3. I’ll be honest. I got distracted before I could even write this comments after reading this. I’m working on this by turning off all electronics once a week this fall for “Wireless Wednesdays”

  4. Very good article.  What about a job that seems to be interrupted all the time, like a nurse — take off a few orders, get interrupted by a visitor, staff come up with questions, phone rings, call bell goes off, phone rings, another visitor.  This article revealed to me how important it is to STOP — my TV went 1.5 years ago and I will say the quiet is wonderful, but I need to shut off the computer and the phone for some great quiet.  Thanks for a great article.

  5. One of my favorite blessings is my office has two desks –one for office work, the opposite end is the Avid for editing.  Email doesn’t pop up on the Avid, and the other desk is 180 degrees opposite, so I don’t see the email.  I fight the continuing battle to swing over and check emails during a render.  I’m trying to discipline myself to keep emails to designated times only.  Sometimes I grin to myself, sometimes growl to myself when I get a call “did you see my email?” sent less than 15 minutes ago. 


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