For a while now, the research community has been trumpeting the notion of focus. 

In other words, toggling from one thing to another doubles errors and decreases productivity.

The Journal of Experimental Psychology.  Stanford.   University of California/Irvine.  And still other psychologists are encouraging that we do less, get more.

Yet software and technology seem to demand our attention on all fronts, at all times.  Count, for instance, the number of browser tabs open.  Notifications per minute about email, texts, and other media.  Even the times per hour we check our inboxes.

So, like the slow food movement, Slow Web is being born.  It’s the idea of doing one activity at a time with as few distractions and interruptions as possible.  No real-time alerts, simply concentration on the activity at hand. 

As communicators and, quite frankly, proponents of media of all sorts, it’s to our advantage to champion SW.  Much of our advocacy could be in the form of a true campaign; after all, who knows best how to tame the tech beast than us?  Recommendations like prioritizing, meeting with managers to identify to-dos, identifying and avoiding distractions, and, yes, underestimating daily goals are just a few top-of-mind thoughts (and we’re sure you’ve got others).  Even goldfish have a longer attention span than we do.

It’ll take time, patience, and practice.  We call it “catching the mono-culture.”


It’s rare to hear this childhood plaint these days.*

Or is it?

What percentage of adult work these days is spent doing mindless stuff like expense accounts, surfing the Internet, or zoning out?

Simply put, those activities are our way of expressing boredom.

Or are they?

Today, more and more psychologists are advocating that we give our brains some downtime to improve mental health and allow ideas to incubate.  After all, they point out, Archimedes discovered the ‘volume parity’ principle while bathing.  Sir Paul McCartney composed the “Yesterday” tune in his sleep.  Of late, the media is zeroing in on Americans’ propensity to not take vacations, noting that 61 percent of us work during our time off and, in 2013, each of us banked five unused vacation days.

Do those facts and figures point to our compulsive busynesses, powered by technology?  Our guilt if there’s nothing to do?  Or to behaviors that the workplace and, often, state of the economy seem to mandate?

We’d say ‘all of the above.’  The idea of doing nothing might be anathema.  On the other hand, what better place to start unthinking than at work?  See it now:  Five-minute think breaks every so many hours.  Coffee (and tea) interludes without staring at anything.  Electronics unplugging once a day for x number of minutes.

Stop.  Pause.  Breathe.  Create.

*We’ll guarantee you’ll never have to hear Mom’s rejoinder:  “Go hit your head against a wall, then.”


Conference calls get our goats.

First, the dogs barking.  Vacuuming in the next room.  Or other distractables, like e-appliances, overloud conversations, random paper shuffling, texting.

Second come the introductions.  But only once.  [It’s hard to voice-ID during a business conversation if you’ve heard the name and the voice just one time.]

Third:  The sidebars, the jokes (when you’re not there), the awkward gaps.

Got the [silent] picture?  There seems to be a real need for a uniform manifesto for conference calls, with everyone agreeing and signing up, and with rules posted online and in our faces.

Sure, we’ve all been guilty, at one time or another, of multitasking, checking emails or smartphones when we think no one’s watching.  Still, since a meeting is a meeting is a meeting, we need to get things done.

Here are our demands:

  • Appoint a moderator who’s sensitive enough to tease people out of their shells and strong enough to just say no to monopolizers.
  • Stick to the topic – and to the time.  We all have other things to do.
  • Start right away.  And that doesn’t mean 11 on the dot; it means 10:57 am.
  • Pay attention.  Though email use can’t be monitored, it’s not hard to tell when folks are following the agenda.  Or not.
  • Test the technology … ahead of time.  Not on our watches.

Researchers state that business’ spend on conference calls will grow 9.6 percent yearly through 2017, with 65 percent of those being audio.  Being active and good listeners (and participants) simply equates to good corporate ­citizenship … and good communications.


Everyone these days has some form of the distraction disease. 

It’s manifested through multi-tasking, reminders to “be in the moment,” and marked (or disguised) inattention to directions.  It’s further demonstrated by our focus on all the wrong syllables and cloud-thinking while in the midst of other activities. 

Before you bristle and say “that’s not me,” answer a few questions:

  • How many times have you checked text or email while idling at a stoplight?
  • Do you ever turn off, shut down, or otherwise ignore your constant e-companion … or not answer your cell?
  • How often do you wake up from a sound sleep to capture an idea – yes, on paper – at your bedside?

Yeah, you got it:  Distraction-it is.  As do we.  What’s more, our attention span for even leisurely reading or movie watching tends to get shorter and shorter.

To be honest, it’s really not our problem.  Just the issue of those colleagues who insist on conducting long meetings and require that way-too-lengthy documents be absorbed.

For those managers, we have the panacea:  Serializing.  Or breaking up subject matters into discrete information chunks that we can digest while (okay) completing other tasks.  Charles Dickens wrote and published his novels in magazines, chapter by chapter.  Soap operas and TV sitcoms/rom coms and dramas are, in essence, video serials; we tune in to our weekly 30- or 60-minute fix of Mad Men, Modern Family, and the erudite Masterpiece Theatre, among other sequential stories. 

All hold our attention, captivate it even.  Water cooler talk swirls around Lord Grantham’s valet Mr. Bates and his “imprison-hood,” or if the HBO series Luck with Dustin Hoffman as ”Ace” Bernstein will ever return. 

Why not, then, embrace the serial?  A story told well will resonate – and, at least, be remembered.  New hires would have access to the series’ “bible” that lists facts and figures, introduces protagonists and antagonists for consistency.  It’s available in any medium.  [Obviously, the shorter, the better.]  It could feature a prequel, a sequel, and, in years to come, revivals.  It spotlights distinctive personalities to care about.  Installments make easy engagements – and cliffhangers, compelling. 

Compared to the daily deluge of emails and PowerPoints and conference calls and meetings, we’d welcome these words:  “Please sir, I want some more.”