Sometime ago, I showed up at a potential customers office to provide a demonstration of our software product. When we entered the conference room about 16 employees had already arrived. Normally in this situation, people would be making small talk or joking among themselves, but in this case, they were all actively working on their own laptop quietly – all 16 of them. I almost started with, “Thank you for gathering together to work in this conference room while you occasionally look up from your computer when I switch slides”. I didn’t, but neither did they become customers.
We’ve probably all been in meetings or conversations with someone where it felt like we were talking to ourselves. The other person’s attention was completely devoted to some distracting email or IM that they just received on their phone. We’ve also probably experienced someone asking us a question only to realize we had no idea what they were talking about as a quick peak at our phone sucked us into our own focal blackhole.
With instantaneous access to information always available in our pocket and with a glut of data that each of us must process everyday, we often abdicate our authority to chose where we want to focus and are as easily distracted as a dog when a squirrel runs by. Instead of abdicating this authority and putting ourselves at the mercy of that urgent email we just received, we should instead create some triggers that tell us when we should turn off our phone or close our laptop so we can chose where we want to focus. Be the king of your focus not a serf driven by whatever comes in next.