By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. – Christopher Columbus
The Wall Street Journal article serves notice to walkers, “Distracted pedestrians stumble into danger” with a true story …
A young man talking on a cellphone meanders along the edge of a lonely train platform at night. Suddenly he stumbles, loses his balance and pitches over the side, landing head first on the tracks.
Fortunately there were no trains approaching the Philadelphia-area station at that moment, because it took the man several minutes to recover enough to climb out of danger. But the incident, captured last year by a security camera and provided to The Associated Press, underscores the risks of what government officials and safety experts say is a growing problem: distracted walking.
Jack Nasar, Ohio State University professor and expert on environmental psychology, conducted a study at intersections and found “…that people talking on cellphones were significantly more likely to walk in front of cars than pedestrians not using phones.”
Speaking of cars, have you noticed an increased “need” to honk at the car in front of you at the stoplight? Seems more and more drivers are distracted with their “smart phones” and fail to recognize the green light.
According to the U.S. Government’s website for distracted driving, this is cause for concern. Consider …
- Cell phone use was reported in 18% of distraction-related fatalities in America
- 11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash
- Three main types of distraction while driving
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Cognitive: taking your mind off driving
What about distracted living?
It seems to me multitasking has be touted as a virtue when in truth it is living a distracted life. What else are we to call it when one’s attention is turned away from something that requires attentiveness?
Clearly, people are injured or even die when distracted while walking or driving but what about distracted living? What is the cost to your relationships, your productivity or your success?
What happens when your attention is divided when dealing with your child or teenager? What is the effect when you have ignored your spouse? What happens when your body language shows a lack of interest to your direct report? Your boss? Your customers?
Raise your hand if you think of yourself as a master of multitasking. Do I have your undivided attention? Are you listening? Are you focused?
The study of distraction in the workplace is called interruptions science. You know all about those interruptions, right?
According to Gloria Mark, a leader in interruption science, the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes, and, once distracted, a worker takes nearly a half-hour to resume the original task.
Sitting down to write this post here are quite a few identified distractions: the phone (twice), two business cards tempting me to stop and follow up; next, my mind returned to an energizing phone call; but wait, better set the timer for 30 minutes so I won’t be late to the luncheon; dare I mention one restroom break, too? And ah yes, the notification of an incoming email such a cool feature.
Now, back to writing, where was I?
Two Steps to Start Managing the Cost
Step One: Recognize what’s going on in your world, really. Examine your beliefs about multi-tasking. Seek the truth from others about how you are showing up.
Step Two: Do something about it; can you turn off the email notification… can you put your smart phone on silent, at least while you focus on the person in front of you or the task at hand? What else can you do to be present?
What if you take a walk unplugged? Or what if you just enjoy the some space, while you drive?
It will require self-control, but that’s good for the brain and what’s good for the brain is good for your performance…but that’s a topic for another time.
Enjoy the journey.
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THE PEOPLE PROJECT:
Your Guide to Changing Behavior and Growing Your Influence as a Leader