Multi-tasking is the Key to the Present; Foca-attention is the Key to the Future

by Jonathan Mirvis

The digital revolution has dramatically changed our designation of time and place. Whereas in the pre-digital era, work was confined to the office and office hours and social and family activity was confined to the home and “after hours”, today the boundaries have been blurred.

The introduction of the cell phone and more recently the Smartphone has brought our families and social circle into the office. Research reports show a drop in worker productivity as workers in addition to their work tasks, take private calls on their cell phones, send private e-mails and network socially with their friends using the social media. Indeed while for many Directors, Smartphones and the like enable them to connect much more efficiently with clients and professional colleagues, for many workers the temptation to use these appliances and applications for private and social networking in the workplace is difficult to resist.

In schools and colleges, the educational milieu has lost its monopoly on the students’ time and attention. While students are physically in the classroom, their attention is increasingly deployed in multiple areas. With their computers open with the learning activity in mind, students are often socializing on Facebook or sending e-mail messages while simultaneously paying attention to the lesson.

Similarly the home and “after hour” social domains have been transformed from family and social settings to work-settings. Diligent workers now leave the office and continue their work at home. While speaking to their children, they check their work e-mails and plan their responses. At social gatherings it is not un-common to see friends busy on work related calls or sending work related text messages.

In order to do our work and continue to engage in “socializing” in the workplace we engage in multi-tasking. Similarly in order to cope with our family commitments and our work demands after hours we engage in multi-tasking. We serve dinner to our children, speak on the cell phone and have the TV on in the background. At work we engage in the work related activity, conduct a conversation with a friend on Google chat and may have our facebook page open in the background.

While multi-tasking is developing as a strategy for survival in today’s world. Foca-attention is the key to tomorrow’s world. “Foca-attention” is the abbreviation of “focused attention”. Our children need the foca-attention of their parents; our personal relationships need our foca-attention, in order to learn we need to apply foca-attention and creative work requires foca-attention. The complexity of our new world needs our foca-attention; foca-attention is the key to the future.

Multi-tasking is not only a strategy used by individuals; it is used by organizations as well. In order to meet the growing financial challenges and the organizational challenges required for the deployment of the new technologies, organizations are multi-tasking. Their thin resources are channeled in multiple directions in their fight for survival. However in order to ensure the fulfillment of their mission in the future they will have to use foca-attention. The complex challenge of meeting their mission requires a focused effort and utilization of all resources for this purpose.

Organizations should do all they can to ensure foca-attention on their missions and philanthropists should endorse these efforts. This will require long term funding by philanthropists coupled with a demand that this investment be translated into foca-attention.

Without foca-attention our performance as individuals and organizations will at most be mediocre thereby jeopardizing our future.

Dr. Jonathan Mirvis teaches Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the International Director of The Florence Melton Adult Mini-School.