Five Recent Resonations

How (and why) to Stop Multitasking by Peter Bregman— “Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you…. I lost nothing by not multitasking.  No projects were left unfinished. No one became frustrated with me for not answering a call or failing to return an email the second I received it.”

How (and When) to Motivate Yourself by Peter Bregman— “We waste a lot of time, energy, and focus second-guessing ourselves. Am I doing the right work? Is this project worthwhile? Is this employee going to work out? That moment-by-moment deliberation is a distraction at best and sabotage at worst. If you keep asking yourself whether a project is worth working on, you’ll reduce your effort on that project — who wants to spend time on something that might fail? — and doom its success.”

Never Hurts to Ask by Darren Hardy–I was surprised by the similarity in the comments of Hardy’s post and Peter Bregman’s post Live Life as an Experiment. Several people thought the idea was to “get away with as much as you can.”  I see value in “asking.” I also see value in not squeezing the last penny out of every transaction.

Facebook Fatigue by Tom Purcell— “When my father wants to communicate, he approaches other human beings, usually my mother, and uses his voice. Sometimes he uses facial expressions to emphasize a point.”

What Would You Do If You Knew You Would Not Fail? by Chris Guillebeau— “Instead of thinking about what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail, maybe a better question is… What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?

Five Recent Resonations is a periodic post with five pieces of media that resonated with me.

Image by Andres Rodriguez via flickr used under a Creative Commons license.

The Public Isolation Project

Some of my recent posts have covered technology and human interaction.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the Public Isolation Project going on here in Portland through a post in Newspaper to New Media.  It was fascinating and fun to follow each day.

Check out the short clip from CNN (below) explaining the project.  Naturally Cristin’s comment about people being distracted by their phones caught my attention.

I thought this was in interesting insight from December 7th, a couple of days after the project ended.

Now that I am no longer multi-tasking various communications, my attention span is better. So much so that I have started reading a book and I don’t make as many mistakes typing and texting. I am still trying to only do one thing at once. I credit that as the reason my anxiety and stress have subsided.

I love the element of experimentation and courage Cristin took to do this very public project.  It’s one thing to do an academic study, another to live it for thirty days to experience it first hand in front of the world.  You can learn more about Cristin’s experiences and insights on her blog where she posted her observations each day.  Lots to be gleaned there.

The photo above is from the front page of the Public Isolation Project and is used with their written permission.

Presently Somewhere Else

It seems to have become an acceptable practice for some people to disappear every time they get a new text message.  We’re sharing the same physical space with the intent of connecting personally, but we aren’t.  And if we are, it’s fragmented, like those project team meetings you go to where everyone is on their laptop doing something else while the moderator drones on and a fraction of the group participates.

It’s another symptom of how short our attention spans have become and how much we crave new information.

Last week I was at a dinner party. Out of the six people there, I was the only one who wasn’t texting or checking Facebook on my phone. Nobody was enjoying that great dinner with friends. They were all somewhere else–Zeke Camusio in Is Our World Completely Insane?

More and more this seems culturally acceptable, like the next course of a meal or the thing we do when, heaven forbid, we’ve temporarily run out of things to talk about.  It’s great to see prominent online community members pushing against this. Chris Brogan doesn’t hold anything back in I’m Not Really Here,

If you’re looking at your phone and not me, you’re saying, “You’re not as important as these people who aren’t here with us right now.” If you’re checking your phone while we’re talking, you’re saying, “I really don’t care what you’re talking about.” If you’re into your phone and can’t seem to put it down, you’re telling me, “I can’t really focus, so what do you really expect from me if we work together?”

It’s not okay. Even though society seems to turn away politely while you do it. Even though we’re all digital junkies. Even though there are a hundred little exceptions.

To be fair, I don’t have a smart phone so maybe I don’t understand how hard this is.  In fact I barely have a cell phone in the form of a T-Mobile prepaid “plan,” which, by the way, is a great deal for my current situation of working from home.  If it rings I know it’s important because hardly anyone calls it.  For about $50 a year I have all the minutes I need which is about $900 a year cheaper than a contract plan.

So I’m curious, for those of you out there that feel the same way, what ways have you asked people in your presence to remain so?

And to ask a different question–beyond the obvious “my spouse is calling” or “my wife might be going into labor”–when and why do you think it is okay to interrupt an in-person conversation because you just got a new message?

Image by Ed Yourdon via flickr used under a Creative Commons license.

The Drug of Distraction

I believe one competitive advantage of the future will be the ability to focus, concentrate, and get things done–the ability to overcome the notion that we can effectively multitask and context switch while doing quality work and having meaningful interactions.

This most disruptive and destructive force is called DISTRACTION and it is constantly and unrelentingly killing our productivity. And it has never been more intense than it is today.

We need to realize the difference between responding and working. One of the greatest keys to time management is about not letting distractions happen.

Either you are in charge of your time or you allow yourself to be the puppet of everyone else’s demands. Someone is always in charge–I recommend it be you.

Darren Hardy’s recent article Under Attack hit on a lot of things I’ve been thinking about recently.  It also hit on a lot of the ways I see myself wasting time and feeling unproductive. Hardy continues,

In the book The Way We Are Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz discusses how we are addicted to distraction.

Distraction gives us a form of relief, a defensible reason to distract ourselves from more difficult and challenging tasks at hand—those things that are important to the accomplishment of your bigger goals and projects, but not urgent… marrying in a little Stephen Covey.

We have an insatiable thirst for novelty—the hunger we all feel for the next new thing. We are constantly scanning the periphery in case something more important and urgent surfaces. New email or text messages and other distractions are seductive and compelling. Resisting them is like trying to resist or ignore a ringing phone, a fresh chocolate chip cookie or a crying baby.

We want to be wanted. We have a need to stay connected and feel productive in the short term with minimal effort. And to be busy and to be connected is to feel alive, but the consequence is we’re over-stimulated, over-wound, and ultimately unproductive and unfulfilled.

Later in the article Hardy describes fighting distraction as a skill we have to build.  He’s right.  The more I multitask and follow distractions in a given day, the harder it is to focus on one task when I really need to.

What are your techniques for reducing distractions and building stronger muscles for concentration and getting things done?

Image by underminingme via flickr used under a Creative Commons license.