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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Attention or lack there of

Earlier this month Stowe Boyd wrote a longer post following up to an interview with Linda Stone on "continuous partial attention" where closed with:
I am a computer geek, and spend hours every day fooling around with computers, typing, reading, email, IM. Of course I am wired differently after years of that. How could it be otherwise?

The results? Changes in how we perceive the world and our place in it. And this is not just small, subtle changes. They are big, and active. We are actively opting to do things differently. The manner of our adaptations are socially intrusive and disruptive: we IM in meetings, read books while others are lecturing, or look out the windows when we are supposed to be focused on the One Big Thing For Today, Or Else. Or light out for the territories. Or start a company.

This did not sit well with me. I recognize where he is coming from but I am struggling with how it negatively affects his view of the world. Someday, I'll get the lightbulb to go off and write more fully on it.

But today, I saw two other items that come close to helping in this matter.

The first from my good friend, Trevor in the UK who wrote "Sometimes we need to change things!" You should click through to see the post on his page and enjoy the cartoon picture.

The second from the FastCompany newsletter highlighting an article by Margaret Heffernan on "Stop the Multitasking". She writes:

What I’d discovered was the downside of multitasking. Nowadays, we scan our email while talking on the phone, check the Blackberry in the bathroom, make phone calls from the train. Women, we’re told, are natural multitaskers, confidently cooking dinner while on the phone and supervising homework. Men struggle to emulate us, proudly boasting that they too can attend soccer matches while listening in on conference calls. The competition is not just about how much work we can shift but how many different jobs we can complete simultaneously. Real leaders, we’re told, have a bias for action – so to look like leaders, we become hyperactive, never doing two things when we could be doing four.

What gets lost is thoughtfulness. We’ve gotten so attached to multitasking that we’re in danger of forgetting how to single-task. When did you last have a conversation, a real conversation, with a colleague or a friend – while paying them the compliment of your full, undivided attention? When did you last read a book and give yourself time to think about what it meant and whether or not you agreed with it? When did you last analyze the themes of your career to find out how you could achieve more?

Do you multi-task?

Should you multi-task?


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