Sometimes multi-tasking is overrated.
A few months ago I was taking notes at a conference (remember those?) when I stopped and scribbled a personal note: Be Present. I was doing what I normally do: capturing quotes from speakers, editing text to fit Twitter’s 280 character limit, snapping story-telling pictures, scrolling through the event’s tagged posts on Instagram, and checking emails to ensure smooth production of this magazine. But, in my world of controlled chaos, I wasn’t present.
My job as editor is to curate information from industry events and share it with those who are unable to attend. Unfortunately, I sometimes get lost in doing so – and I’m not the only one. I recall looking around the room and realizing the majority of attendees beside me were lost in their work, too. I spotted one designing a graphic to be printed. Another responding to emails on her laptop. A third getting up from his seat to answer a call from his sales rep back home. The list of us who weren’t present goes on. It seemed we had all spent money and invested time in traveling to the event, only to be in two places at once. And research shows that multi-tasking actually hinders human productivity.
So, when we do meet again in hotel ballrooms and conference centers (see you at ISA Expo in Orlando?) I’ll strive to be more present. I’ll give more attention to the speakers (while still capturing important notes; don’t worry). I’ll check emails less and only post to social media during breaks, instead of during a session or Q&A. I’ll better communicate my schedule and my priorities with my team, so they know not to interrupt me unless there’s an emergency. While this approach won’t be easy, it’s something to work on. And what better time than now, in this new world of uncontrolled chaos, to practice?
So, what’s your strategy for being present today? Are you watching important webinars at full screen without distractions? Are you taking video calls that require your complete attention? Are you reading this magazine without checking the notifications on your phone? Use these small changes to continue to be present in the future.