Brain Food: Are you suffering from continuous partial attention

Secretly checking your BlackBerry in mid-conversation? Writing a document but really looking out for incoming e-mails? You turned off the sound, but you can still see who's there, of course. Continuous Partial Attention is the plague of our time. It's the ability to be there but not in full, to listen with one ear elsewhere and to concentrate without actually concentrating - the office equivalent of the cocktail party look-over-your-shoulder technique. Coined by a Microsoft executive (funny, that), it is the opposite of multi-tasking - more like semi-tasking, where responding to a text seems more critical than listening to your children discuss their day at school. The source of all the trouble is of course technology - it's just too tempting to check who an e-mail is from. The cure, apart from throwing out the laptop, sticking the BlackBerry in the fridge and leaving the mobile off, is to limit the hits to specific times and adopt what they call a counter-addiction - say, smoking.

by Helen Kirwan-Taylor -
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

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