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Focusing attention is the new work ethic

A person who works with complete focus has a major advantage over a workaholic who multi-tasks all day and responds to every interruption, according to a story by tech writer Mike Elgan on InternetNews.com.
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Written by Andrew Nusca on

A person who works with complete focus has a major advantage over a workaholic who multi-tasks all day and responds to every interruption, according to a story by tech writer Mike Elgan on InternetNews.com.

Elgan cites New York Times columnist David Brooks, who himself cites Malcolm Gladwell in that author's latest book, Outliers: "Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them."

But in an age of real-time e-mail notifications thanks to Outlook, plus instant messages, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, personal phone calls, business phone calls, comment threads, meetings, lunch, breaking news and coworkers dropping by your office, it's growing increasingly hard to ignore distractions. In this age, distractions seek you out, Elgan writes.

As a result, productivity suffers. You end your day exhausted by work, no doubt, but have you ever thought about how much that exhaustion is the result of true work, and how much is due to the mental effort expended in addressing, or at least ignoring, distractions.?

Elgan asks just how reasonable it is to "follow" all these things:

So when does the work get done? When do entrepreneurs start and manage their businesses? When do writers write that novel? When do IT professionals keep the trains running on time? When does anyone do anything?

The need for attention, rather than hard work, is imperative, he writes:

A person who works six hours a day but with total focus has an enormous advantage over a 12-hour-per-day workaholic who's "multi-tasking" all day, answering every phone call, constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, and indulging every interruption.

To extrapolate, the classic workplace pressure of staying later than the boss isn't necessarily a good one in the plugged-in 21st century.

As it turns out, controlling your attention may help you be more productive than working hard...and addressing everything.

What do you think?

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