Quick, get me some Ritalin……actually, get some for everyone out there. We’re going to need it!
Since getting back into a larger company again I’ve been noticing a trend with co-workers and the folks we deal with outside of the office on a daily basis. It seems we’ve all got Attention Deficit Disorder. And I’m not being tongue and cheek….. Attention spans are out the window and it’s something I worried over back in 1996.
In 1996 I started my career in Wireless Telecommunications with Sprint PCS. You might have heard of them. I was a network engineer. I worked on Lucent Switches, Voicemail platforms, digital cross connects, dial plans, and a host of other network gear. A good bit of my time was spent reading through technical documents day and night. And I can tell you, no A.D.D. then.
As we were building our network I pondered the larger meaning behind what we were doing. One morning I went into my manager’s office and asked, “Tony, what do you think the social implications will be when we finish building out this network.” Tony’s reply was pretty cut and dry. “It’s just a job Rich, I really haven’t given it any thought.”
Well, here we are a decade and a half later and I think I have the answer to the question I posed to Tony back then. The communications revolution has left many of us with A.D.D. I don’t say this lightly, and I don’t think Ritalin is the answer.
Since getting back into corporate America I’ve watched co-workers and clients who just can’t focus on one thing. Staying on track for more than 5 minutes is a miracle. With all the communications mediums at our disposal, something is always taking our attention away from what we’re working on. Focus is something that seems to have been lost.
I’m sure this isn’t new, and that it has been going on for the time I was away from corporate America, but at my studio and gallery the demands for attention weren’t as great. I could focus on a single client. I could focus on editing a series of photos for hours on end…… But that was small business. Big business is a different beast.
E-mail is popping into my computer constantly. The cell phone rings many times an hour. Trying to have a meeting with other folks I work with is an exercise in tolerating phone call interruptions and distracted people. “Hold that thought for a minute, I’ve got to take this call.”
People can’t stay focused because every communication method is important, and they’re bombarded with it minute by minute. Facebook dings, email dings, ring tones…… I’m honestly wondering how folks get things done now. I have yet to be in a meeting with clients or co-workers where we weren’t interrupted by some communication technology. And when the interruption is over you have to address whatever the call or e-mail was about, but you also have to get your mind back on the task of what’s right in front of you.
In my case, as I’ve been observing this I’ve made it a point to remain focused on what’s in front of me. That means if I’m in someone’s office discussing the latest work and my cell phone goes off I ignore it. Voicemail is a great thing, and I can return the call after I’m done with the meeting. If the IPhone beeps to tell me I have mail or a message I ignore it as well. Focus on the task at hand, move on to the next task when you’re done.
I’ll avoid the Ritalin for now and just try to focus.