Saturday, April 19, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

When did the ability to do multiple things at once become a badge of honor? My teachers and my parents stressed paying attention to one thing at a time, finishing one project before moving onto the next. I used to be very good at focusing and concentrating, avoiding distractions. That appears to be an obsolete skill-set these days.

The rules are different now.

Yesterday afternoon at one point, I was on the phone with one person while simultaneously reading an email from another person on a different subject. My cell phone rang. Typically I do not answer my cell at work but this was a call I was expecting from my daughter. I put my business call on hold and had a brief word with my daughter, while continuing to read and respond to emails. When I finished talking to my daughter, I went back to my business call, and moved on to my next email.

Suddenly I realized I had no idea what the caller was talking about because I had allowed myself become too immersed in reading an email that was rather convoluted. How can I concentrate on two different things at the same time? The answer is: I can't, but I have to try in order to keep up.

People in business today expect nearly instant responses to often complex questions. I am overwhelmed by the constant barrage of information (email, telephone calls, faxes, and actual human beings walking into my office) all of which come with the expectation of an immediate response every time.

A lot of people I know are very proud of the fact that they are so busy they need cellphones and PDA's so they can respond to their clients and/or bosses 24/7/365. They wear their constant busy-ness as some kind of badge of honor. On top of work-related commitments they have social engagements, kid-related classes and practices, etc. etc. etc. -- to an extent too exhausting to contemplate.

Not me. I have had to learn to do the "Information Shuffle" at work because it is the way business is done these days but I sure as hell don't like it. It raises my stress level to the red zone and I think it fosters decision-making without due deliberation, which scares me. I have no choice in the matter while I am at work.

During the rest of my waking hours, I make it a practice of doing absolutely as little as possible, in order to counteract the ill-effects of my hectic work-life. While the rest of the world seems hell bent on staying busy and productive during every waking second, I try to spend as much time as I can doing nothing terribly productive... (I prefer to think of writing as "creative" as opposed to "productive").

I know that is a small protest against the madness. It is something. It is what I can do.

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