In walked a father and his two young sons, dressed formally for a boys night out in Paris on New Year’s Eve. You could see the sense of pride in the eyes of the youths, most likely eight and twelve years of age, as they took in the linen covered tables and plates filled with lobster, Dover sole, and braised short ribs. As they settled in for their evening together, the three appeared happy to be together as they excitedly placed their orders.
Just 30 minutes later, the youngest was sound asleep. His head was at that awkward angle often achieved by children who’ve lost their fight with fatigue in public. The older boy, when he was not imitating his sleepy sibling, busied himself with his meal as did his father. The initial excitement of having a fancy dinner clearly faded away.
What happened in those prior 30 minutes? Texting happened and not by whom you may think. It was the father who, just minutes after being seated, began a prolonged session of texting someone while taking a moment here and there to address his boys, order his meal, and eat what was placed in front of him. The initial happiness of the boys progressed to boredom and, in the case of the youngest, sleepy dreams of what might have been.
If a father can’t be fully attentive on such a special night with two of the most important people in his life, is it any wonder that attention spans wane at work as well. Multitasking during phone calls, checking e-mails in meetings, and managing competing priorities are just a few common examples of how people dangerously divide their attention. The result is that details are missed, colleagues are not thoroughly heard, and customers are not as well served as they could be.
While medicines are often prescribed for the clinical version of ADD, the remedy for ADD at work and home, which I call the Attention Divided Dilemma, is choosing single-tasking over multi-tasking. When something is truly important, single-task it by giving it your absolute, undivided attention. Make it your personal goal to notice every nuance and hear every detail, down to even the slightest changes in someone’s tone of voice. Do that and you go from Attention Divided Dilemma to Attentiveness, Discernment, and Deeper relationships, which undisputedly will create better results in both personal and professional situations of all kinds.