I was reading a recent Harvard Business Review article about how in today’s world, we often reward speed. We want to be the first to break news, the first to come to market with a new product, the first to blog about our new idea, but doing something first doesn’t mean doing it best.
Reflecting on speed, I realized how I’ve lost my ability to concentrate because I’m used to switching rapidly from one thing to the next to ensure I’m not missing an important client email, breaking news or text alert. I just counted 20 open tabs on my internet browser, where I click from one to the next to read new email, see what notifications are on Facebook or check my Google Reader. While writing this short blog, I’ve talked to my colleagues four times and answered the phone twice. This is a problem. It bleeds into my personal life too. My husband and I watch a lot of movies and unless it’s a really, really good movie, we’ll both be multitasking at least once on our phones or iPad, answering email or reading a paper.
I need to reclaim my concentration. I used to be proud of my ability to multitask. In our jobs we need to be able to seamlessly flow from one client project to another while juggling media calls and advising colleagues. We even set up our office space to enhance our collaboration, we decentralized offices and now sit in client pods so we can easily discuss what’s going on. This multitasking on steroids is good on a macro level, but on a micro level, I need to reign it in. I need to let emails come in and not click over to read more, I need to make a commitment to opening a new tab and finishing the task I started, I need to make a list of questions to ask colleagues and wait until there are multiple items on the list before interrupting someone. I want to be able to sit through a 90 minute movie and not feel the urge to see what’s going on in the world (i.e. check my phone).
I hope it’s not too late and I’m eager to see if I can improve my focus. The question is, do I have enough willpower to feel like I’m letting things go while finishing the task at hand?