He looked at it. Again and again and again. Which caught my eye. Sitting in a fast food place yesterday after a short shopping binge, I was watching a guy seated across from me. In the time it took for him to eat his french fries, he looked at his cell phone 25 times, and picked it up to text or surf twice. In less than five minutes!
No wonder white-collar productivity is tanking. I would bet he wasn’t even aware of his constant distraction. So what’s the harm? Distraction causes accidents. Distractions also mean we’re on “automatic” – not thinking about what we are doing. For example, when we multitask while eating, we tend to eat more, since we aren’t aware of how full we feel. They also slow down our processing – making us less efficient. We don’t learn things as well, and have a harder time recalling information learned when multitasking.
In addition to the risks and the decline in productivity, our constant need to “check in” with our technology takes us out of the moment. I know, sounds all new-agey. But it is true. We don’t know how to be just with ourselves, with out the distractions of technology. We don’t know how to be with our friends and family without constant connection to our virtual friends, family and customers. We don’t know how to let our ideas gel without the constant stimulation of texts, posts, tweeting and information. It feels like we need to fill every available minute with busy work.
We become used to constant stimulation to the point that we can’t focus for more than ten or twenty minutes at a time. We feel cut off without the contact. I always chuckle to myself when I see couple out for a romantic date, sitting across the table from each other, not staring into each others eyes, but staring into the blue glow of their cell phones. It seems like they’re missing one of life’s great experiences.
When was the last time you just daydreamed? You know, stared out of a window, not thinking about anything? Does everything need to be filled with busy? You can be busy, but not necessarily effective. The next time you pick up that phone, tablet or laptop, ask your self, “Will what I’m about to do make a difference?” If not, maybe you should put it down and just enjoy your french fries.