Email and phone calls and Facebook – oh my!

Last week, Mike Elgan of Internet News graced us with the 2.0 version of the decades-old concept of a “work ethic”: controlling your attention.

To start, he has a great point – it’s time to upgrade our efficiencies to best manage the many distractions that throw themselves our way every day. I admit it, I’m not always immune to the shiny thing in the corner (I’m talking to you, twhirl), but those minutes add up and it’s important to recognize that times-a-wasting when productivity (and thus, results) are particularly valuable these days. He writes:

“A person who works six hours a day but with total focus has an enormous advantage over a 12-hour-per-day workaholic who’s “multi-tasking” all day, answering every phone call, constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, and indulging every interruption.”

But, I get nervous when I see technology influencing a backward step in basic human standards. A strong work ethic is a valuable trait. “The ability to pay attention,” well, it just doesn’t have the same ring. What does this mean for future generations? When candidates try to sell themselves in job interviews, should they omit the “excellent at multitasking” hype? Somehow, “I can concentrate really well on one task at a time,” doesn’t sell me on your dedication to getting the job done.

I disagree with Mike, hard work is NOT dead; I think it should go without saying that to have a good work ethic includes the ability to pay focused attention and go above and beyond to get the job done. If that means you have to turn off your desktop alerts and forward your calls to voicemail to maintain your strong work ethic, do it.

I have one other thought on this: Not to open a can of worms, but I’m curious to know if the medical community is seeing an upward trend of increased Ritalin prescriptions from the past few years. If inattentiveness, difficulty getting work done, procrastination, and organization problems are resulting from our inability to focus on the task at hand, it could be a valid concern. As marketers, it’s a necessity to participate participate participate, including the involvement in as many social networks as possible, engaging with as many people as possible, as often as possible. Are we doing ourselves more harm than good?