Reducing Distractions a Matter of Life and Death for Some

I just saw an article in the New York Times entitled As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows. I feel that my industry, enterprise accounting and finance, falls prey to a comparable level of distraction. Personally, I need to take positive action to eliminate my Pavlovian reaction to a ringing or vibrating device. But that’s only part of the distraction problem.

Here are a couple of ways to grab the article I’m talking about:

From the article:

Doctors and medical professionals have always faced interruptions from beepers and phones, and multitasking is simply a fact of life for many medical jobs. What has changed, doctors say, especially younger ones, is that they face increasing pressure to interact with their devices.

The pressure stems from a mantra of modern medicine that patient care must be “data driven,” and informed by the latest, instantly accessible information. Annual investment in gadgets and other technology by hospitals and doctors has soared into the billions of dollars.

This has parallels in accounting and finance. Smartphones in our workspaces, for sure, are part of the culprit. But so is general information overload. Working on a complicated financial project, say valuing a company or deciding how to price a new product, has “data driven” components, but there are also market considerations and softer items that need quiet contemplation. Considering all aspects and allocating your time to the most important stuff  gives you the best chance of providing insightful counsel to your business leaders.

The NYT writer, Matt Richtel, talked with doctors. They have this term, “iPatient,” to describe all of the patient info spread across various medical devices.

The iPatient is getting wonderful care across America,” Dr. Verghese said. “The real patient wonders, ‘Where is everybody?’

Does that sound familiar? If you’re a financial type, can you picture your VP of sales saying something like this? “The pricing model looks beautiful, but I just talked to three customers who will drop us if we go in with numbers like that.”

This distraction problem and the issue of information overload has been my hot button lately and I’m taking charge of it. I need to set aside more quiet time in my work day. Solving problems involves contemplating both the hard data and the real world at the same time. I’m talking about quiet contemplation – very quiet (or maybe with soft classical music in the background).

Putting the phone on vibrate and setting it out of reach doesn’t work for me. It needs to be off and stashed where I can’t see it for extended periods of time. That’s a scenario for getting stuff done. I just read Drinking from the Fire Hose, it should give me some insight. More on this soon when I post my book take.

I would love to hear how you’re wrestling with this stuff.