We often think that we’re very good at multitasking, but evidence continually supports the contrary. It’s not that we’re not good at multitasking, per se. It’s more that when we do multitask, our attention is split, and we don’t do the things that we’re doing as well as we could. In fact, splitting our attention can cause us to miss important information in one of the tasks. For instance:
During a conference call with the executive committee of a nonprofit board on which I sit, I decided to send an email to a client.
I know, I know. You’d think I’d have learned.
Last week I wrote about the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. Multitasking is dangerous. And so I proposed a way to stop.
But when I sent that email, I wasn’t in a car. I was safe at my desk. What could go wrong?
Well, I sent the client the message. Then I had to send him another one, this time with the attachment I had forgotten to append. Finally, my third email to him explained why that attachment wasn’t what he was expecting. When I eventually refocused on the call, I realized I hadn’t heard a question the Chair of the Board had asked me.
Situations like these happen all the time. Except, like the author alludes to, they don’t always happen from they “safety” of one’s office. I’ve written about cell phone manners, but I didn’t broach the subject of texting while driving. As I make my way around Metro DC, I’m surprised by the frequency with which I peer over at the drivers around me to find someone with one hand on their phone (texting) and the other hand on the wheel…while simultaneously splitting one eye on the road and one eye on the phone. Now, I don’t mind so much, if someone’s texting (at a stop light, but there are perils to that, too), but while driving down the road!? Really, is your message that important? Is it worth… your life?
Initially, I led off the post talking about being present (or having someone being present) to what’s happening in the now. Specifically, I’m talking about being in a meeting, maybe on a date, or just simply having a conversation. Isn’t the conversation much more engaging when someone’s giving you their full attention. When you’re giving someone your full attention? Maybe you pick up on some subtle cues (that you usually miss). Cues that are communicated only when one’s attention is fully engaged in the other person.
It’s these instances – when there is complete presence – can the best of what’s possible emerge.