The Gift of Attention in a World of Distractions

In a world of increasing digital distraction, I intentionally work to give and request the gift of attention.

A World of Digital Distraction

Over the last few decades, mobile devices, social media, workplace messaging platforms, and asynchronous collaboration software have made digital distraction a growing problem in the workplace.

I suspect prolonged, pandemic-driven remote work made matters worse. Tech workers were doing less in-person collaboration. We were in front of our screens for longer durations. We had unfettered access to our personalized streams of digital content. Many of us shifted to a blend of competing work modalities. These included synchronous collaboration on video calls, asynchronous collaboration using digital tools, and constant pings of emergent considerations on workplace messaging platforms. Plus we still had all those emails waiting for us.

I’m now working in mostly in-person settings, and I can see both my own distracted behavior and the distracted behavior of others.

I believe all this distraction leads to decreased performance, both individual and organizational. I believe it also can contribute to feelings of frustration and lack of respect for one’s own time and priorities.

The Gift of Attention in a World of Distractions

Intentional Focus

I end each of my daily journal entries with a commitment to purpose, patience, positivity, and being present in my work with others.

In addition to daily intention setting on my mindset, I work toward discipline and focus in the use of digital media:

  • I strive to not look at digital messages like texts, emails, Slack, etc. when meeting with others in person or on Zoom.
  • If I’m typing notes when meeting with others, I let them know that’s what I’m doing.
  • I set daily blocks of time to check digital messages and batch that work up.
  • I let colleagues know that calling me or text messaging my mobile phone will get my attention first. It should be only used for time-sensitive concerns.

I’ve also found it helpful to set the tone at the beginning of meetings. The tone is that we all are going to work to be present and stay off of our phones and messaging apps on laptops.

When I’m meeting one-on-one with someone, I’ll ask if they need to take a break from the conversation if they become distracted on their phone, laptop, etc.

The Gift of Attention

I believe we work more effectively and efficiently when we give the gift of our attention. I also believe we strengthen our relationships when we are fully present with others.

Would you like to do some reflection and intention setting? Ask yourself how you might be more present in the coming week in your work with others. How might the gift of your attention serve others?