Friday, May 17, 2013

Paying attention

I’m not answering.
“Claus?! Are you doing something else again?”
“Me? No, I’m listening.”
Of course that’s a lie. While talking to my sister on skype, I’m also busy checking facebook, eating porridge for breakfast and adding things to my todo list. All at the same time – nothing with proper focus!

Up until a few years ago, multitasking was an ability owned exclusively by the versatile housewife. Nowadays it seems that it’s a basic requirement for everyone who wants to survive in the daily jungle of hyper-connectedness. There’s simply not enough time to read all those emails, tweets, whatsapp messages, facebook posts, news articles and business updates. Plus we need to squeeze in telephone chats, skype conversations, the latest youtube video, shopping on itunes and amazon, downloading study materials, booking a flight, a train, a bus, a car. Not to forget we still have to work, eat, drink, shit, sleep, wash and dress! In short: modern life has become so demanding that many of us feel that we won’t get anything done unless we do everything at once.

But wait a minute – what about quality? Doing several things simultaneously, are we really able to do all of them well? Can we focus on one task while being distracted by another? Sure, we can clean and dance and laugh, all at the same time. But what about communicating?

Can I have a good conversation with my sister while liking photos on facebook? Can I write a decent article while checking emails every five minutes? Can I listen to a friend while reading random words on a tiny screen? Can I produce a thoughtful answer while already pressing the send button?

The truth is: the 21st century is providing us with the best communication tools ever, yet the quality of communication is getting worse and worse. And in a world with 7 billion people, with endless problems to solve and new challenges to take on, is there anything more important than communication? Can we afford to keep misunderstanding each other?

Neither the all-knowing internet nor the smartphones can be blamed. It’s the human being who is stupid! The solution? To simplify life again by doing one thing at a time. Monotasking instead of multitasking! If you skype, skype; if you email, email; if you listen, listen. In this way we’ll have less stress and more quality time. We’ll lose confusion and gain clarity – not by paying money for another fancy device, but by paying attention!

Thanks to Anthony Amrhein for the continuous inspiration!