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Home > Hey, Look Here!
From Paper to Pixels
Hey, Look Here!
Michelle Medley

To-Do, Today
10:22 a.m. Must write story outline on emergence of “corporate A.D.D.” in workplace (or how to deal with attention deficit disorder distractions). Deadline for completed story has passed but have a plan.

    Will just grab coffee, as focus is imperative to create meaningful slant on working through chaos. Will partially close office door. Co-workers will see door as sign that I’m in office but not available.
10:24 a.m. Steph sticks head in door to announce, “There’s a knot in my chicken wing.” Will just take a second to ease knot in Steph’s shoulder using polarity technique. Love Steph. Friends like Steph make workplace bearable. Always have open door for Steph.
    Connie swings by to offer “Cat in the Hat” story – defining as Thing One and Thing Two the two new bosses. Hilarious! Will stop two secs to add “Thing One and Thing Two” to our secret office “Jargon Watch List.” Just need to locate desktop folder containing secret list. Hidden where?
    Will just go online briefly for picture of Seuss cat and story verses. Cat will be perfect office décor for moments when we need a laugh.

11:30 a.m . Plan for story outline is off course. Lunch time. Need quick bite to fuel synaptic nerves and get clarity on subject of interruptions. 

1:00 p.m. Will just check email for two secs.

2:00 p.m. Have wrestled “corporate A.D.D.” notes into semblance of order. Story’s premise should go something like this:

    The place where you spend your days is likely a battleground of distractions, interruptions and trumped-up crises, riddled with the same attention deficit among grown-ups seen in restless schoolboys. “The scarcest resource for today’s business leaders is no longer just land, capital or human labor, and it certainly isn’t information. Attention is what’s in short supply,” say authors Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck in their book The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business (Harvard Business School Press, 2001).

    Getting more out of people is no longer just about managing their time effectively – it’s about managing their attention, say experts. These attention specialists want to educate your company about “corporate” or “organizational” A.D.D. and the new battle to catch and hold your attention long enough so you get something done. They have a toolbox of suggestions that can help give order to your average day – turn off phones during a meeting, stop checking email every 10 minutes, avoid multitasking (which can lengthen your day), close your door to well meaning friends.

    Whether corporate A.D.D. is the next big thing or a clever repackaging of the old time management model, employees arestill left to wonder, “Am I the one who’s dazed and confused, or is my company out of control? Can a few simple techniques really help me rediscover a passion for the tasks at hand?”

    The experts say yes – if you’re willing to make a few adjustments. It won’t be easy. The modern contrivances – BlackBerries, cell phones, email – encourage us to continually check in with our world, for if somebody is trying to reach us, it must be important. Indeed, we must be important. And we like that feeling.

    But here’s the catch: If all of these “get in touch” devices are so integral to our sense of worth, why does it feel like nobody’s listening? Are we really creating products and services that are among the  world’s best, or are we a nation suffering from a bad case of staffers interruptus? At the end of the day, does the BlackBerry or cell phone get you what you need to do your job in a highly unpredictable environment?

3:00 p.m. Good start on story outline. Beginning to think of workplace as the new Wild West, with danger in the form of lost productivity, stress, burnout, all tied to chaotic atmosphere. Feeling sense of relief it’s not about me. It’s about “them” – those devices. Will just get stick of gum from vending machine to chew on this.

3:20 p.m. Conversation overheard at vending machine is about cooking pigeon soup. Hurray for what you can learn at the office.

3:25 p.m. Notice sticky note from editor attached to partially closed door: “Talk about pharmaceutical connection.” Will just go back into story outline and add:

    If you’re watching prime-time TV, you’re seeing messages about distractibility in the workplace. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has a TV ad featuring a woman in a meeting who freezes up when asked what she thinks about an important issue. If this sense of panic feels familiar, the ad goes, try Strattera, the first non-stimulant drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of attentiondeficit/ hyperactivity disorder in children, adolescents and adults.

    Does the ad raise ethical questions about the perceived need for this product? After all, maybe you need it, maybe you don’t.

    Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and co-author of Delivered From Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder (Ballantine, 2005, with John J. Ratey), contends that only about 5 percent of the population truly suffers from A.D.D., but more than 50 percent show A.D.D. symptoms – impulsiveness, restlessness. People are moving too fast, doing too much and becoming overwhelmed with information, he says. For them, simple techniques such as using lists, color-coding, notes to self and files can help.

3:30 p.m. Making real progress, but story is broader than originally thought. Where is list of possible story experts to call? Where, where?

4:00 p.m. Found list. It was safely stored in a secret folder marked “Accountability Metrics.” Need contact info for interviews. (See graphic.) Must examine different techniques for getting under control. Is this a “me” or “them” problem, after all?

6:00 p.m. Where has day gone? Will just check spelling in story outline. Check email. Check voicemail. Door is opening. Paycheck is here. Will just check out and start fresh tomorrow with images of Thing One and Thing Two, dangling from doorknob. Good plan.

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