I’m not “always on” kind of person. I don’t have a Facebook account. I don’t use IM. My default status on my company’s Lync system is “Do Not Disturb.” I switch my mobile phone off at weekends and at the end of the working day.
My young colleagues struggle to understand how I survive like this. They are constantly connected to their peers, their colleagues, and the sources of information that they hold most dear.
I explain to them that I’m a fan of having access to the Internet. I like to look stuff up. I like to blog. I like to read other people’s stuff. I even watch TED talks from management gurus. What I’m not a fan of is being interrupted. I like to give things my full attention.
My young colleaqgues make allowances because I’m decades older than them but I can tell that my behaviour could not be more eccentric if I wore a saffron monk’s robe and told them to be fully present in the moment while listening to the sound of one hand clapping. It’s a point of view but not one that fits into the world they understand.
I have grown used to thinking of myself as a dinosaur,displaced in time but still big enough not to be hassled about it.
Imagine my surprise when one of my young colleagues forwarded me an article from the ultimate arbiter of intellectual caché, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) declaring that the latest trend is monotasking.
Tony Schwartz has published an article in the HBR called “The Magic of Doing One Thing At A Time”.
It seems that my work habits are about to become trendy. Schwartz explains that doing one thing at a time allows you to focus, which allows you to do better job, which allows you to get more done or have more time off. In the world according to Schwartz, enlightened people create points in the day for doing nothing. He has to explain this concept carefully, it’s such an exotic idea. Setting boundaries between one task and another, one type of activity and another, apparently reduces stress and avoids burn out.
He’s right of course.
On reflection I realise that having Schwartz endorse my work habits doesn’t remove my dinosaur status. I am a dinosaur because I have to stretch my imagination to understand a world in which what Schwartz is saying actually needs to be explained.