Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. In this episode, Daniel Goleman speaks with Anthony Gell about ways technology is challenging our ability to manage our time, and a valuable step we can take to deal with those challenges.
Daniel Goleman- I think one of the most insidious, insidious realities of work today is how technology is destroying our ability to focus and get things done. Because every time there is a distracter, every time you get an email and feel, “I have to answer that right now,” instead of putting it aside and finishing your task, some studies have shown it can take up to 15 minutes to get back to where you were before in terms of focus. And your BlackBerry, and your email, and your texts, it doesn’t stop. That’s the problem with technology. It’s too easy for it to reach us, which means we have too many distracters.
And there’s a paradox here, which is there’s some brain systems that like to look, because you get a little hit of pleasure from some of these. It’s called intermittent reinforcement. Every once in a while an email is going to make you feel really good. Maybe this is one of those, and so it’s very seductive. That’s what makes us break our train, but once we’ve done it, we’ve lost our train of thought, we’ve lost our concentration, and so on. So, for example, when I write I go somewhere where I don’t get email, or where there’s no phone even. I’m off grid because I want to focus. And there’s some really good research coming out of Harvard that shows that people who’s job is to somehow add value, to be creative or to produce, need a cocoon of time for sustained effort where they are going to get something done. And if you get one thing done during the day you’re going to feel much better about your job, actually, than if you can get nothing done because you’ve been distracted all day.
Anthony Gell- That’s really good, so it’s about identifying the most important thing, and dividing time out in the day, that’s essential.
DG- Well I structure my day so I have protected time. And I really recommend that, and I recommend it for managers, for people who are in a leadership position who are managing knowledge workers. People who’s job is to add value by thinking, by being smart, by being innovative, by being original. They need time where they can get that done in the day.
AG- Daniel, we interviewed Edward De Bono, obviously a great thinker, and he says that not enough corporations or leaders are actually thinking, and one of the cheapest most efficient ways of beating the competition, but nobody’s doing it, is linked to what you’re talking about- it’s carving time out for that.