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Attention Deficit, oooh shiny

Multitasking in a modern working environment

“Hang on, hang on, I’m just multi-tasking, you know how it is.” This was said to me recently and the person saying it was quite proud of the fact. I went cold.


In essence if you are multi-tasking you are concentrating on the subject at hand, then you are concentrating on changing what you are concentrating on and then you are concentrating on the new thing you are concentrating on. That sounds like a lot of concentrating. I over use the word concentrating purposefully.


Concentrating is not a powerful state to be in, focusing is. I think one of the best analogies I ever heard was this: You are on the side of a lake and you need to swim to the other side. If you concentrate you will see every ripple, every glint of light, every sound will be magnified. You think about every move your body makes. If you focus you hear nothing and only see a clear, still sheet of glass and your final destination. And you just do it.


We can apply this analogy to our working environment. When we are concentrating we are looking at multitasking is a problem if it stops you from doing the important, deep-thinking that most people in business need to do to be effective. every email that comes in. We are sitting in meetings while reading those emails, or we are talking to one person while picking up the phone to another. At best we are wasting energy. At worst, we are being pig rude. And in the middle we are being ineffective.


So why is this more of a problem now, than in the past? Why does the entire world seem to suffer from ADOS (Attention Deficit, Oooh Shiny)?


It is probably because it has become the norm due to the amount of access we have to incoming and outgoing communication. We can sit at our desks and the following tools can butt in: Landline, mobile, iPad, laptop, television, and, heaven forbid an actual person, who probably will. And we let it happen because we must be accessible 24 hours a day.


Okay, I’ve demonstrate the problem, but the debate is; is it a problem and if it is what can we do about it?


As I write this, I am sitting on an aircraft, cruising at an altitude of 33,000 feet and thank goodness this plane has no WiFi - yet. I have already dealt with the various emails I was putting off, I’ve reviewed my ‘to do’ list, and now I am calmly writing this, because nothing can interrupt me up here.


So multitasking is a problem if it stops you from doing the important, deep-thinking that most people in business need to do to be effective. It can also be a benefit if we have a few things we need to get done but don’t need to focus on.


Assuming you are addicted to multitasking and you would like to kick the habit, what can you do about it?


First of all, accept that for most of us our work environment is not conducive to big thinking. Now that used to be a problem but now frankly it is not, unless you have one of these archaic bosses who believes you can only be working when you are at your desk.


Solution Number 1: Work out of the office.

Home, coffee shops, libraries, the park. It doesn’t matter but take it away from your office environment and into somewhere you can find the inspiration or quiet you need.


For most of us we can’t work out of the office all of the time. We need to be in the office. Senior people in a Company create energy, good and bad, but hopefully good. People want to know that there boss is around. They want to interact and engage with the people that they feel can influence their careers. So how do you work from the office and still be effective, rather than doing your talking during the work day and your work during the work evening?

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Last modified on Friday, 09 May 2014 09:13

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