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  April 25, 2014
Can I Have Your Attention Please!



"Multi-tasking is just a fancy way of saying - screwing up two thing at the same time"

~Dick Masterton

It’s Tuesday afternoon.  I have just arrived back to my office after a quick bite to eat at a local sandwich shop.  I close my door and sit at my desk ready to tackle a project that’s been on my desk now for over a week.

As soon as I sit down, I notice the light on my phone blinking and the LCD screen showing that I have 2 new messages.

I know that if I don’t clear these messages, the phone will keep blinking and distract me from my work. 

The first message is a hang-up Multi-Tasking... good... I think to myself... the second message is from a customer I promised to send some technical data to... "within the hour"... which has now turned into 3 hours...

I awaken my computer from its screen-saver slumber and find the data sheet for the part in question.  From there, I "maximize" Outlook, click on "new" and compose a brief e-mail to our client attaching the needed data sheet.

After sending the e-mail, I look at my in-box and notice 6 new messages awaiting my glance. 

Three of the e-mails are "junk" announcements, two are from within the office copying me on some important correspondence with customers, and the last one is from our IT manager asking me to call him immediately about some back-up issues.

I spend the next 15 minutes talking with him regarding our move to the cloud and the things that needed to be completed before we can make the transition.  

While we’re on the phone, he sends me a form that needs to be completed by me in order to authorize him to make the appropriate changes.

I need to complete the form, print it, and fax it to the internet hosting company.

As I walk to the fax machine, I’m stopped in the hall by one of our inside sales reps who asks me if I can please call a certain customer back about a technical issue.  I ask him to e-mail me the pertinent information and I’ll give the customer a call.

Finally back at my desk to begin my project.

A glance up at my screen and it shows me that I have two new emails. 

At nearly the same time, my cell phone chimes.  It’s a text message from my wife.  "Do we have any plans for this Saturday?"

I text back, "I’m going on a bike ride in the morning... I should be available after 2pm".

Soon, my cell phone rings... "it’s my wife."

I answer the phone and spend the next 5 or 6 minutes discussing an invitation that was extended to us to join some close friends sailing on Saturday... we work out the details.

After hanging up, I look up at my computer screen and the 2 messages had turned into 5 - including the contact information for the customer I had promised my inside sales person that I’d call back immediately...

... and so it goes... interruption after interruption... never actually completing anything... or so it seems.

Now for some people, they would just turn off all of their electronic devices and unplug. 

Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to do that... mostly because it’s a part of my nature to do things in real-time... answer that e-mail as soon as it comes in... return that phone call right away... text back my answer...

I know that if I don’t do something right away... it will quickly move to the bottom of the inbox or to-do list...

I even go so far as to tell people that if I haven’t given them a response within 30 minutes, please ask again, because more than likely I’ve already forgotten about their original request and I need a reminder.

I used to think that my ADHD was a good thing... it allowed me to juggle a lot of balls and master the notion of "multi-tasking".

The reality is, however, that I end up dropping a lot of balls and that "multi-tasking" is just a code word for "never completing anything"... or being habitually late.

A few days ago, I was heading home while listening to an interview on the radio.

The guest, Maggie Jackson, was speaking about her new book,DistractedDistraction:  "The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age"

She spoke about how the proliferation of electronic devices have become more than just mere annoyances.  Rather, they now have come to rule our most valuable of non-renewable resource... our time... "by nurturing a culture of social diffusion, intellectual fragmentation and sensory detachment.  The way we live our lives is eroding our capacity for deep, sustained and perceptive attention... while losing our ability to create and preserve wisdom and we are fast slipping toward a time of ignorance that is paradoxically born amid an abundance of information and connectivity."

Our lack of attention is causing us to lose brainpower as we are unable to sustain focused thoughts.  When our minds wander aimlessly, we are incapable of effectively communicating or solving complex problems.

We start becoming scatter-brained, confused, and disoriented often forgetting simple tasks.

Constant interruptions prevent us from being productive.  It is estimated that businesses lose up to $650 billion each year due to workers starting and stopping tasks due to interruptions in their day.  Each time a worker experiences an interruption, they must then re-engage the task, forgetting exactly where they stopped, and needlessly repeating steps. 

The most interesting thing about interruptions is that over 25% of all interruptions are instigated by workers themselves.

Thinking back about my Tuesday afternoon, I had the choice to close Outlook or turn off the phones... but I chose not to... and the project I had wanted to complete that afternoon... barely got started.

The bleak future of reduced productivity doesn’t come from the lack of information, connectivity, or even processing power... it comes from our inability to actually focus on our work and finish projects in a timely manner amid all of the interruptions that face us throughout our days (and now nights and weekends).

We must learn to turn off the sources of interruptions and spend more of our time acting rather than reacting...

Managing our lives is still under our control...

We alone make our own choices... we alone live the life we design...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to be less of an interruption and more of a solution.


Jim Kalb

Email -  jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com 

Twitter - @OptiFuse

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