Multitasking and Attention

This morning, I read an article from the Harvard Business Review, “How and (Why) to Stop Multitasking.” The article helped me to see something that I have suspected, that is, that my multitasking, or attempts at it, actually lead me to be less productive and more stressed.

I have always had trouble doing  more than one thing at a time. Now I know better why.

I was encouraged by something Peter Bregman, the author of the article, said. He committed himself to not multitask for an entire week. When he was on the phone, he was on the phone, not checking email, etc.

After that week, he noticed some big differences. For example, he said: “When I was with my children…I shut my cell phone off and found myself much more deeply engaged and present with them. I never realized how significantly a short moment of checking my email disengaged me from the people and things right there in front of me. Don’t laugh, but I actually — for the first time in a while — noticed the beauty of leaves blowing in the wind.”

The dissipation of attention seems to be a bane of modern life.

A cell phone or handheld device can be totally distracting when we are in a conversation or in a meeting. It sends a message that the person calling or texting is more important than person we are with. Not a good feeling. A computer laptop can suck the life out of relationships, ruin an evening together, or even a vacation. Such things make our attention a cheat.

Pure, focused attention is one of the greatest compliments we can pay to another person. When that attention is distracted and broken apart, it is disheartening to those around us, especially those we love. We instinctively sense whether we are important to others, at any given moment, by the quality of attention we are given by them.

Satan begins his work with distraction, I believe. Distraction is the first step to unraveling a relationship, the first step on a downward spiral. We can refocus and turn that around. 

If you want to pay a loved one a compliment, set other things aside and really pay attention with both ears and both eyes. Turn off your phone and computer, and turn on your heart. When our children and spouses know that we are honest and sincere in the attention we give, they tend to be less in need of attention, but, funny, we like to give it more.

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