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executives in corporations as opposed to people working at Burger King or something, then I think you're talking 30, 35, 40 percent.
You say technology in the form of e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging and so on is fueling this phenomenon. It's ironic that the information age is making a lot of us dimmer, isn't it?
Hallowell: Absolutely. Technology is a great blessing. It is behind much of our progress. But if we're not careful with it, it can start running us ragged. This is the person who spends the day responding to e-mail and voice mail; the person who allows himself to be interrupted by the cell phone during an important meeting; the person who stays up late at night because he can't log off the Internet. We need to take charge of it. Right now, it's taking charge of us. We need to preserve time to stop and think.
If you don't allow yourself to stop and think, you're not getting the best of your brain. What your brain is best equipped to do is to think, to analyze, to dissect and create. And if you're simply responding to bits of stimulation, you won't ever go deep.
Hallowell: No one really multitasks. You just spend less time on any one thing. When it looks like you're multitasking--you're looking at one TV screen and another TV screen and you're talking on the telephone--your attention has to shift from one to the other. You're brain literally can't multitask. You can't pay attention to two things simultaneously. You're switching back and forth between the two. So you're paying less concerted attention to either one.
I think in general, why some people can do well at what they call multitasking is because the effort to do it is so stimulating. You get adrenaline pumping that helps focus your mind. What you're really doing is focusing better at brief spurts on each stimulus. So you don't get bored with either one.
You have cited software maker SAS as an example of a company actively promoting a more connected, humane workplace, with perks like a seven-hour workday and on-site day care. The interesting thing is that it is a private company and doesn't have to answer to Wall Street. Aren't most publicly traded companies too paranoid and bottom-line-driven for such niceties?
Hallowell: And yet (SAS) is highly profitable. Its bottom line is robust. It's just that it doesn't have to meet quarterly numbers. It's almost a metaphor for the problem. If you're only working from quarter to quarter, then it's very hard to have a long-range strategy. Hard to weather when you take a dip. This quarter-to-quarter management succeeds in the short term but fails in the long term.
Do you see a broader corporate backlash against this type of work environment, or do you think it will be up to individuals to manage it?
Hallowell: I think the people in charge will catch on and will take steps. You reach a point of red alert, in which the brain starts to steam and bells go off and whistles go off and people start quitting and productivity declines. We're not quite there yet. I think the smart companies are catching on.
Any examples jump to mind?
Hallowell: I was talking to someone who runs a huge fund in New York, and he was saying he demands that his employees take several days a month just to think--to leave the office and just
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