Put distractions on hold

My guess is that many of you have heard of the recent tragedy of a man who fell to his death off the scenic San Diego Sunset Cliffs while he was engaged with his phone. His mother said he had been taking pictures. If you do a search, you will find many other incidents of the negative results of being 100% engaged with a phone versus paying attention to the task at hand.

Just this week, after parking in my office parking lot, I was on my way to the entrance behind another person who was also engaged with her phone. She went right past the door and continued walking through the parking lot. As soon as she realized what she had done she came back to the door, slightly embarrassed.

These incidents are both strong indicators of this crazy thing called multitasking. There is only one right answer to the following question: How many things can you do effectively at the same time? I believe you know the answer.

Many of you have probably been in a meeting where several of the attendees were more connected with their electronic devices (yes, iPads count, too), than they were with what was taking place in the meeting. I would suggest that this behavior is somewhere between rude and ineffective. So why do people do it? In many cases they do it because of the pressure to live in this world where all of us are being asked to do more, better, faster — always with fewer resources than they had in the past.

Why not try a method that will not only gain the respect of others in that meeting but also save you from walking off a cliff? Why not be there when you’re there? If you expect to get 100% benefit of attending a meeting, BE THERE! When you are engaged in a project at work, give it 100% of your effort and BE THERE! And just as important, when you leave your place of work and arrive at home to the family — BE THERE!

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I can’t even begin to count the number of people who start our classes and are so overwhelmed with work that they carry the work monkey on their back to their home. The spouse and kids take a back seat to the constant pinging on the phone. Even worse, this same habit, having been strongly reinforced by mom or dad, is passed on to the kids. I was recently in a restaurant sitting next to a family of four who were supposedly having a family dinner out. All four might as well have been in different restaurants, since all they did was interact with their phones until the food came. I also observed that they didn’t even talk during the actual meal — maybe they don’t know how anymore. Pretty sad.

I have had the good fortune to go on an annual silent retreat over the years. It is without electronic devices and yes, a time of reflection. It tends to be a very refreshing experience. I have never failed to come back totally energized after one of these events. One of the mantras on the final day of the retreat is: “Don’t leave before you go.” In other words, while you are still there, BE THERE!

In summary, don’t text yourself over a cliff. When you’re in a meeting be engaged. When you get home at the end of the day, leave work at work; enjoy and engage with your family — they are #1! I know some of you are saying that this is impractical or, worse yet, impossible. Not only is it possible, it is truly the one way to live, what Dale Carnegie referred to as “that exciting adventure called life.”

As our good friends from Nike say: JUST DO IT!

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