Archive for November 8th, 2010

“A wealth of information creates a paucity of attention.”

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Tachi Yamada, the president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, mentioned last year how important it is to be 100% present when you’re with someone:

I don’t have a mobile phone turned on because I’m talking to you. I don’t want the outside world to impinge on the conversation we’re having. I don’t carry a BlackBerry. I do my e-mails regularly, but I do it when I have the time on a computer. I don’t want to be sitting here thinking that I’ve got an e-mail message coming here and I’d better look at that while I’m talking to you. Every moment counts, and that moment is lost if you’re not in that moment 100 percent.

Recently I gave a presentation to the MBAs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I was amazed by the pressure the students felt to be constantly connected and to respond instantly to email messages. And remember, these were students, not heart surgeons.

Why is it so difficult for us to simply be in the moment, wherever we are? (Incidentally, I’m not setting myself above the rest of humanity here, by the way — I fight the same urge to continually play with my iPhone and check email as everyone else.) But as Marty Neumeir, author of The Designful Company says,

A wealth of information creates a paucity of attention.

Dr. Yamada’s point about every moment counts reminds me of my friend Paul’s comment that there are no rollover minutes in life. When that moment is gone, it’s gone. With so much information around us, it’s terribly easy to stop paying attention to what’s in front of us.