Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Multitask your way to paralysis.

Check this out of this and see if it sounds familiar.

You’re at your desk. Phone to your ear, headset on or wearing that little android earpiece thingie; and from the corner of your eye you watch a new call come in and check the phone number or name that pops up on your screen. “What’s does Todd want?” or “What now…” or “Rats – I wish I could take that,” or “Who is calling me from Baltimore (or Chicago, or San Diego or Texas)?” or any number of thoughts that race through your already distracted brain for just a few seconds as you mentally wander away from the call going on right then to breeze through the possibilities about the call you’re missing.

Then, even as you try to concentrate on the call at hand, you make yourself crazy watching the blinking red light blink that indicates the voice mail waiting for you.

As you return the call, you read an email or two or ten and start to answer one in particular just as your call gets answered. Do you then say something like this? “Hold on…just want to finish this and hit send…hold it… wait just a second … okay. Now – you called me?”

Or how about this: while you’re talking to someone – over the phone or in person - and you’re trying to concentrate on the subject at hand, you watch emails flash onto your screen and even open a few, or purposefully ignore a few and once in a while even shriek at a few.

Then you hop onto Twitter, or Facebook, or your two other email accounts, check your text messages and then browse the Times, the WSJ headlines, and any number of enewsletters that enter your inbox hourly.

All while you’re composing a Powerpoint, running a P and L, drafting a proposal, reviewing an agenda and reading a document that needs your feedback by 9 am.
Welcome to your office in 2010, or what I like to call a whirling dervish of rudderless activity that masquerades as progress.

I know this is not new. That we’ve all been walking this wireless tightrope of progress and efficiency and availability for years now. It’s just that it seems that with every new gadget, we get yet another way to be accessible.

What we’ve lost in all this new-found technology is the concept of manners. Nothing makes me crazier than talking to someone – even over the phone – and knowing that they’re not really talking to me. (I do it, too – don’t get me wrong.) But I hate myself for it. I really hate it when I do it to my Mom – who says something like, “Oh, honey...just call me back when you have time. You’re busy….” She can hear me typing, or typedissing her if you ask me.

A colleague and I discussed this very thing and he suggested someone should develop technology that darkens your screen when your phone rings. Or maybe it could lock up your keyboard. Some new gadget that forces us to pay attention. That’s kind of pathetic if you think about it. We need gadgets to distract us and now we might need something to stop the distractions.

Wait a minute. We might already have that. It’s called an on / off switch. Or a log off button. Or even just one unwired moment for God’s sake.

Maybe we should create rules around technology and stick to them:

Monday: Please Pay Attention Day. No typedissing while you talk on the phone.

: LYLOD or Leave Your Laptop at the Office Day.

Wednesday: Black-bury Day – bury your blackberry at the bottom of your purse or bag, especially when you attend a meeting, seemingly to discuss topics that need your attention and good thinking.

Thursday: It’s 10 PM – do you know where your brain is? Day - Read and compose no email once the sun goes down.

: Turn It Off Day – Take one evening a week with no cells, blackberries, laptops, ipads, iphones, itouches or any other i-thing that takes you out of the real moment, filled with real live people and real live conversation.

Would love it if some company were to adopt even one of these rules – or some version of them – then measure employee satisfaction six months later. I have a feeling productivity would be up, courtesy and respect would be on the upswing and people would experience a feeling of overall worthiness. Any takers out there?

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