Multitasking? Hardly! This is the real key to success in the digital era


Succeeding in the digital era requires an ability to adapt and a willingness to be in lifelong learning mode. Really, you have no choice in an economy where the job you might have in 20 years doesn’t yet exist.

Other traits will come in handy in the digital economy: The ability to communicate and collaborate, an understanding of the technologies relevant to your current job and career, the ability to be creative and think strategically — all would be near the top of the list.

Another trait often cited as essential to a solid digital-era skill set is the ability to multitask. But a Stanford University Graduate School of Business professor argues that successful enterprise leaders and workers must be able to do just the opposite.

“Researchers have been telling us that attention and focus are the raw materials of human creativity and flourishing,” writes Nir Eyal for CNBC. “And in the age of increased automation, the most sought-after jobs are those that require creative problem-solving, novel solutions and the kind of human ingenuity that comes from focusing deeply on the task at hand.”

And there it is. Eyal says focus is the “single most important skill for the 21st century,” though for some reason he refers to it as “not being distractable,” which isn’t exactly meme-worthy, I’m just sayin’.

What can challenge a person’s focus in the workplace? Pretty much everybody and everything, according to Eyal and anyone who has ever worked in an office. Email, coworkers, group chats, meetings, your phone. Did I mention coworkers?

So what to do? Eyal offers bits of advice for each type of distraction, most of which fall into one of two categories: 1) Exercise some discipline and self-restraint (hard!), and 2) Don’t let other people control your time.

Timeless advice, yet more important than ever as digital and information technologies grace us with even more potential distractions in coming years. We’re all going to need to filter and focus to stay productive (and sane).

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