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Attention Must Be Paid

This morning’s Wall Street Journal features an article that addresses one of the warning signs that we need Bill Jensen’s new book. Dennis Berman describe and discusses what he terms “surfer’s voice,” that half-engaged, less-than-attentive tone of voice we use on the telephone while surfing the Web, reading email, and otherwise multitasking.

I’ve been guilty of this myself, even with girlfriends and family members. And it’s something we need to be careful of. If we’re turning our attention to other things in the midst of a phone call, isn’t that an indicator that our work lives could be, well, more simple? In his book, Bill offers several suggestions for more ably managing our information and communication load:

  • Ignore most corporate communications.
  • Delete 75% of your emails.
  • Leave shorter voicemails.
  • Write shorter emails.

That’s just in the first 45 pages. The most appropriate guideline in this instance might be the following: “Quickly prepare to communicate with anyone, about anything.” If a phone call doesn’t seem to be worth your time — much less your attention — hone in on the important part quickly. Make sure you communicate what you need to get across. Listen to what your colleague has to say — if it’s personally applicable, actionable, and clear. Then get off the phone.

And if my ex-girlfriends had anything to say about this, it’d be, for gosh sakes, pay attention to the person on the other end of the phone line. Multitasking while talking on the phone isn’t just unproductive — it’s disrespectful.

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