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The most powerful ways to defy digital distraction and infobesity

(Business News) Distraction levels are at an all-time high as our culture becomes increasingly obsessed with multi-tasking, but it’s counter-productive. Here’s how to focus once and for all.

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What is “infobesity” and how can it be fought?

Microsoft UK has announced its findings from a recent study labeled ‘Defying Digital Distraction.’ Employees are experiencing ‘infobesity,’ and it’s costing all of us.

Some highlights:
– 40% of employees check their mobile devices constantly just in case something important comes in from work.
– 45% of workers feel that they should reply to work email instantly – no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
– 55% often experience information overload, 43% are stressed as a result, and 34% are just plain overwhelmed.
– 52% check their mobile device for work within 15 minutes of going to bed

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In other late breaking news, my extensive research has found that the results of this study has surprised exactly no one. We all know it. So what can we do about it? As a soon to be father, I find myself thinking often of the lessons from my childhood, and I find that they apply quite well to the current situation.

1. No toys in the bed

My parents wouldn’t allow me to have my GI-Joes in bed for a simple reason: it kept me from falling asleep. Today, we are guilty of the same crime. When we use our phones on work while in bed, we mentally shift back to the problems of the day. Nothing wrecks sleep quicker and slowly erodes our capacity for focus.

Overcoming the endless available digital distractions requires significant mental executive control (powered by glucose). If you aren’t sleeping well, you will not have what you need to be excellent at your job. It’s time to keep the toys out of our beds (and start dreaming of fantasy baseball trades).

2. Keep the Sabbath holy

I stole this advice from my elementary Sunday School teacher. He stole it from God. Which makes sense because more and more research is coming out about our human need to take intentional breaks from work.

Throughout most of history, separating work from the rest of life was far simpler. Your environment dictated your task. If I’m in the field, I’m working. If I’m in the house, I’m playing with my kids. That’s how our brain likes it. Habits are developed in environmentally specific settings.

The problem- multi-use devices wreck these environmentally distinct roles we play. I work anywhere. Play anywhere. Deposit checks anywhere.

Sabbath is simply an intentional time set apart from work to replenish our energy. My wife and I will not use our phones between 7pm and 9pm. Set the times that work for you and stick to them. Keep your Sabbath holy. Because God said so.

3. Spread out on the soccer field

If you want to watch an exercise in wasted energy, go to a Kindergartener’s soccer game. They spend the entire game sprinting after the ball. Eventually, you learn that by spreading out and ‘kicking said ball to person who is relaxing with a mai tai’ you can both save energy and score more goals.

Many of us do the kindergarten equivalent in our email responses. ‘Where do you want to eat.’ ‘I don’t care, you?’ ‘Mexican?’ ‘sure. when?’ ’11:45?’ ‘works for me.’ ‘so what is convenient for you?’… 17 emails later, you have arrived at a decision. This is just one of the 37 ways that we feel productive, but waste our time.

How to stop wasting time and energy

It’s time to stop wasting energy and time. A few ways to do this:

  • Eliminate the expectation of immediate response time. The quicker you respond, typically the less useful your response.
  • Quit with the cc’ing everyone on everything phenomenon. Just stop it. Bosses- stop asking for it. Please.
  • Change the cultural expectations by actually talking about what you expect. It’s time to meet together and discuss when people should be expected to respond. I actually get work done at 8pm while my family watches TV. I don’t need you to respond at 8:35PM. You don’t know that unless I tell you.
  • Ask yourself, ‘what’s the goal of this communication, and how can I eliminate steps to reach that goal?’ (ie. first email: lunch at 11:45 at Mi Cocina on Commerce?”).

Good thing we all learned these lessons in third grade. Now, let’s put them back into practice.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

Business News

How employers should react to the new age discrimination court ruling

(BUSINESS NEWS) A court case that could likely land in the Supreme Court is one that all employers should react to and prepare for.

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In January, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that then 58-year-old Dale Kleber did not get protection against age discrimination from CareFusion as a job applicant.

For employers, there are some important takeaways. Namely, that Kleber v CareFusion does not give employers open season to only hire young workers.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects employees against age discrimination. There are also protections against disparate treatment under ADEA.

Basically, employers cannot intentionally discriminate against aged applicants. When posting a job, that means you should never advertise for someone under the age of 40 when posting job descriptions.

While Federal law may not apply to older applicants, the Texas Labor Code,  for example prohibits discrimination against people over 40 years of age. Employers should be very aware of inequity throughout the hiring process, whether you’re looking at internal or external candidates. You do not want to be a test case for age discrimination.

How can you avoid violating ADEA and other applicable laws?

First, you should work with your legal counsel and HR department to make sure you are following the law. If you are accused of age discrimination, you should talk to your lawyer before responding. It’s a serious complaint that you shouldn’t try to answer on your own.

Next, go through your job postings to make them age-neutral unless there is a reason for hiring someone under the age of 40. The legal term for this is Bona Fide Occupational Definition. The qualifications can’t be arbitrary. There must be industry standards that determine a definable group of employees cannot perform the job safely.  

Words in applications matter. Don’t ask for GPA or SAT scores. Avoid things like “digital native,” “high-energy,” or “overqualified.” These terms indicate that you’re looking for someone young.  

You should also update application forms that request birthdays or graduation dates. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, you should structure interviews around skill sets, not personal information.

Train those responsible for hiring about the current laws in your state.

Make your managers aware of bias, both conscious and unconscious. It’s not age discrimination that runs afoul of the law, and you must be prepared to confront any situation where it occurs.

Talk about age bias and discrimination in your workplace. Don’t assume that older workers aren’t tech savvy or that they don’t want to keep their skills current. Instead of putting generations against each other, have a multigeneration workplace.

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Business News

Cities are fighting back against the motorized scooter companies

(BUSINESS NEWS) The scooter wars are on, and major cities are filled with them – residents and government are finally fighting back.

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When the scooter-pocalypse began, it seemed to come out of nowhere. One day, the most annoying thing in downtown traffic was maybe a pedicab, and then the next: a swarm of zippy electric razor scooters.

This sudden arrival was by design: companies like Lime and Uber’s JUMP simply just began offering their services. There was no negotiation with the city, no opportunity even for residents to say whether or not the scooter pick-up stations could be located in front of their houses—just a sudden horde of scooters (for the record, this do-it-first and then ask permission approach was replicated in all major cities across the United States).

Was this illegal? Nope. There was nothing on the law books about the rental scooter technology so there was technically nothing wrong with the companies just assuming that they could do what they wanted. (Some scooterists have since come to think the same thing, committing crimes and breaking rules.)

Now, enough time has passed for cities to have the opportunity to fight back, as a new year of legislative sessions has begun. San Francisco is one such community, which determined that only permitted companies could operate within the city limits—and, surprise, many of the don’t-ask-permission companies were not given these permits.

Lime, blocked from operating, filed a suit against the city saying that they had been discriminated against based on their … rude … arrival.

A judge has since ruled that there was no bias in the city’s review of the permit applications that were later not awarded to Lime.

As the legislation and the lawsuits play out over the next year, it will be interesting to see if the scooter company’s attitudes toward the cities they operate in change.

If, as they have said all along, they desire to be the next major innovation in urban infrastructure, then they need to be prepared to work with and grow alongside the communities that they inhabit.

It would be a wise move, then, to partner with local governments to ensure that both organizations are working in the best interest of the populations that they serve. 

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Business News

One state could make it illegal to ask a job applicant’s age, graduation dates

(CAREER) A recent court ruling makes ageism against job applicants legal, but at least one state is taking action.

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In late 2018, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled 8-4 that Congress intended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to only cover current employees, not job applicants during late 2018 with the case Kleber v. CareFusion Inc.

The verdict seemed to confirm what many older applicants have experienced: while they may have the necessary qualifications for a position they are often overlooked for younger candidates. The confirmed legality of such dishonorable bias is disheartening.

One state is stepping up to rectify this practice: Connecticut. Democratic Reps. Derek Slap of West Hartford and Robyn Porter of New Haven have proposed legislation that would fight ageism in hiring processes by making it illegal for employer to ask applicants for their dates of birth or school graduation dates.

According to the Hartford Courant, when asked about the legislation’s intention, Rep. Slap replied that such questions, “allow employers to vet our seniors before they even go in to their job interview.”

Candidates who may be older and entering the job market should keep their wits about them. While they are creating and reviewing their resumes and cover letters, they should reach out to other people in their field and make sure that they aren’t using dated conventions.

If they are pressed to provide information that indicate their ages during in-person interviews. Even if the questions are technically legal, applicants can try to assuage fears of being out-of-touch wit current market trends or technology by coming prepared to the discussion ready to highlight recent projects or experiences that illustrate on-the-pulse market fluency.  (For more tips on how to deal with these kind of awkward situations, check out this article.)

The initiative that Connecticut has taken in addressing this problem is likely to inspire more lawmakers across the country to follow suit.

But we don’t have to wait for it to be illegal for people to understand that this practice is unfair. If you are not an older candidate but an existing employee (and therefore covered by laws that say age discrimination is illegal), keep an eye out for how you, your colleagues, and your company speak about more experienced workers.  Sometimes the quickest way to change harmful practices is by having a direct conversation about an uncomfortable topic. 

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