Respecting Others in the Age of Distraction

Tom James the unicycling juggler. . .I have to confess that in a conference call meeting the other day I found myself multi-tasking instead of paying careful attention. I justified it to myself by only doing it during agenda items that didn’t completely involve me. Still, I was clearly distracted! After trying a few times to do more than one thing I took a breath, reminded myself how disrespectful I was being to the other participants, and focused again on the conversation at hand. In an earlier post I wrote about the difficulties we have with multi-tasking, about how switching from one task to another is wildly distracting. More and more I believe this is true. Jim Taylor from Computerworld says that “multitasking is a big fat lie:”

Multitasking, as most people understand it, is a myth that has been promulgated by the “technological-industrial complex” to make overly scheduled and stressed-out people feel productive and efficient.

 So how do we refrain from the temptations of multi-tasking when we’re in a virtual meeting? Eilene Zimmerman, in a New York Times article – Staying Professional in Virtual Meetings – suggests the following:

  • prepare in advance for the meeting and actively participate just as you would in a face-to-face meeting;
  • use the mute button only to cut out distracting noises in the background (ie NOT to mute the sound of your keyboard as you check your e-mail!);
  • if you find yourself constantly asking for clarification or for questions to be repeated, take that as a sign that you’re not paying attention – focus;
  • there’s sometimes a delay on the line, so preface your remarks with an intro like “excuse me” or “question” and wait to be recognized.

If you have trouble focusing you might consider getting focus: a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction, the new free e-book by Leo Babauta. It’s full of great advice for minimizing distractions and staying focused on the moment. How many of you Dialogue Education practitioners have tossed the principle of respect right out the window by multi-tasking during virtual meetings? Come up, ‘fess up! I can’t possibly be alone! [This post was written with single-minded, laser-beam focus, without allowing any distractions . . . oh, except for the three times the phone rang and I checked caller ID to see who was phoning.]

You might also consider learning how to apply the principles and practices of Dialogue Education in an online setting by registering for Dialogue Education Online – hurry, though, it starts on January 24, 2013!!

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