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Can I Have Your Attention? by Jonathan McKee, Curt Steinhorst

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Chapter 1The Curse of the Overwhelmed

Twenty-two.

That's how many e-mails have arrived in the past 15 minutes as I've tried to write this opening. And because I indulged the temptation to check, I'll work longer and get less done today. I probably won't even realize it.

Been here before? Know someone who has?

You're not alone. Ask your people how work is going and you'll hear:

Sure, people feel overworked, but that's not the problem. We confuse busyness and activity with actual work, so what feels like overworked is actually overwhelmed. What's the difference? To find out, let's go back to my inbox.

Of those 22 e-mails, three were from employees, one was from a client, one was from a prospect, and five were newsletters or promotions.

The other 12? They were from people who were supposed to be working. But weren't.

These are friends who work in fields like consulting, accounting, medicine, journalism, and software sales, sending messages such as, “Where did you buy that Ninja blender?” at 10:30 AM on a Tuesday. Twelve out of 22 isn't bad—one study says 86 percent of the e-mails we get aren't critical for work.1

Hey, I'm Doing My Job

Most people don't think distractions affect their productivity. They are distracted, they say, but they still get to what needs to be done. As someone who has studied distraction for years, I can tell you that very few people are honest about its cost in ...

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