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Are You Paying Attention to What You’re Doing?

As the 21st century has exploded into our lives, hurry, anxiety, and agitation has become a regular way of life for many people. The word that can be used to describe the sign of the times is multitasking. Originally, this term was used to describe the parallel processing abilities of computers. However, it’s now a word that is often used to describe our attempt to do as many things as possible all at once. It has become such a way of life that most people can’t remember life before multitasking.

The question that looms before us as we multitask at the speed of life is, “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” There have been ample studies and anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the mortal dangers of using cell phones and other devices while driving.  Several states have made this type of multitasking illegal.

In the business world, warnings about workplace distractions generated by a multitasking-gone-crazy culture are rising. In 2005, psychologist Glenn Wilson was commissioned by Porter-Novelli, the London publicists of Hewlett-Packard, to supervise a small in-house experiment on the adverse effects of “always-on” technology. This research accompanied a large-scale survey of around 1000 people conducted by polling company TNS, revealing the extent of misuse of technology among UK workers. The results showed that during a regular business day, “technological distraction diminished IQ test performance [by eleven points].”

When we talk about multitasking, we are talking about the art of paying attention¾our ability to shift our attention and exercise judgment about what is worthy of our attention. People who achieve great things often credit their success to the finely-honed skill of paying attention. When asked if his ability to reason had helped him make his discoveries, Isaac Newton responded, “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.”

Therefore, given our collective societal inability to pay attention due to our propensity to multitask the valuable moments of our lives, perhaps we should tattoo the following phrase on the top part of both of our hands, “Focus and Finish.”

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