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A Pox on Multi-Tasking
November 2008
In This Issue
A Pox on Multi-Tasking
The Data Is In
The Gift of the Present
I'm All Ears
Open to the Public
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A Pox on Multi-Tasking
woman walking with cell phoneThe Chicago Tribune recently ran an article headlined "On Blackberry at a funeral?!?"  According to a survey commissioned by Neverfail, Inc., a software company based in Austin, TX, 16% of those surveyed admitted to using a handheld device during a funeral or memorial service.  Not surprisingly, 80% said they've used their PDAs while driving, 79% admitted to using a mobile messaging device in the bathroom and 41% confessed that, despite prohibitions, they've checked their Blackberries or similar devices while on a commercial airplane.  An amazing 11% reported they were unable to resist the lure of their Blackberry during a romantic interlude.  
 
multi-tasking 
Technology has turned us into a nation of multi-taskers.  Yet, there's increasing evidence that trying to do two things at once isn't just a bad idea; sometimes multi-tasking can be fatal.  Witness the recent Metrolink commuter train accident in Chatsworth, CA, in which the engineer perished along with 25 other people.  He was sending a text message when he missed a stop signal and plowed into a Union Pacific freight train, causing the deadliest passenger train crash since 1993. 
  
Oops 
padded meterEagle-eyed reporter-at-large Judy Beaver of The Office Pro
spotted this photo of a chap in London's East End demonstrating the new padded lampposts designed to protect those not paying attention from banging into the posts.  This trial program, featured on a blog called SteveWebel [dot] com, was developed after a survey was done by 118 118, a phone directory service.  They learned that one in 10 people were harmed by focusing on their cell phones instead of where they were walking.  Duh.  
The Data Is In 
Julie MorgensternAccording to Julie Morgenstern, the author of all those wonderful time management books (see my September e-newsletter, "Time is On Your Side"), there is actual medical data to support that multi-tasking impairs our ability to think, process and perform.  (I think the lamppost photo might be enough scientific evidence, but please read on.)  In her book Never Check E-Mail in the Morning, Ms. Morgenstern cites an article from NeuroImage, a science journal, which determined that managing two mental tasks at the same time significantly reduces the brainpower available to concentrate on either task, ultimately damaging the quality of the final product.  She adds that scientists reporting in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found it takes our brains four times longer to recognize and process when we switch between tasks.
The Gift of the Present 
But more than that, multi-tasking robs us of the present; and as far as I can tell, the present is all we have.  When I'm multi-tasking, I'm not giving someone my full attention, which is key to providing excellent client service (not to mention building good relationships).  So now when I'm onlistening the phone, I force myself to close my eyes or turn away from my computer screen in order to really hear the person.  The only time I allow myself to work on the computer and talk on the phone is when I'm coaching a client long-distance or taking notes during an important conversation.  Even then, I let the person know I'm taking notes so if they hear any "tap-tap-tapping" in the background, they know it's because I want to make sure I capture everything they've shared with me.
 
I'm All Ears
 

Why is it so important to tell them that?  Because in addition to being a nation of multi-taskers, we are also a nation starving to be heard.  With all the noise around us--physical noise, mental noise, the din of the media, screaming deadlines and shrieking priorities--many of us feel that no one really listens to us.  That's the secret of effective networking, and the advantage of the truly successful salesperson.  Powerful people really know how to listen.  Listening is perhaps the greatest gift we can give someone.
 
So turn away from your computer, shut off your Blackberry and give someone the honor of your presence, complete with eye contact, your fully engaged ears and your cautious tongue.  If you must respond, let it be with probing questions, affirmative murmuring or with a face that reflects empathy and understanding.  Say little and listen much and you'll be amazed how many people will think you're a genius.

Open to the Public 
Two exciting opportunities I'd like to share with those of you who are in the Chicago area:  The first is an eight-week career workshop I'll be leading, a ministry for Gary United Methodist Church in partnership with First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton, IL.  "The Career Transition Workshop: Your Best Work is Ahead of You," developed by Dave Cox, an eminent executive coach and career consultant, workshopis for those who are either unemployed or wanting to make a job change.  Dave developed this program as a way to make a difference and share his faith, and now I'm lucky enough to be working with him to offer the series on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. January 17-March 7, 2009.  This workshop is being supported by Wheaton Bank & Trust (www.wheatonbank.com).  Thanks, Bob Hutchinson, president of WB&T, for your support of this important outreach.  Thanks, too, to Jim Carr and Angela Stephenson of First Pres for approaching the folks at Gary UMC about partnering on this important project.
 
The first four workshops will be held at Gary UMC (225 N. Main) and the last four at First Presbyterian (715 N. Carlton).  There's no fee, but a $25 contribution toward the cost of the workbook is appreciated.  We expect that by January there will be a big demand for this very practical workshop, which includes everything from networking to building a resume and handbill, so register early by calling 630-668-3100 or e-mail office@garychurch.org.  For more information, you can visit the church's Web site at www.garychurch.org.
 
The other opportunity is a day-long career workshop for women being offered by Benedictine University and DuPage Woman Newspaper.  I am honored to be a presenter at "Ignite Your Life: A Women's Career Symposium" to be held January 24, 2009, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.  I'll be giving my presentation "Your Golden Rolodex: How to Network for Results!"  Many thanks to Tanesha Pittman, executive director of Benedictine's adult education programs, and to Anne Schwab, publisher of DuPage Woman Newspaper, for inviting me to participate.  For more information and to register, visit www.ben.edu/wcs.
 Register early--by December 19, 2008--for a special rate! 
Vickie AustinDuring this week of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for each of you who have supported me and my business this year.  I hope you and your family enjoyed a joyful celebration, including a sumptuous banquet, lively conversation, a brisk after-turkey-and-stuffing walk and uninterrupted time with your loved ones...sans Blackberry.
Love,
 
Vickie
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