Memory Almost Full ... of Junk

All That Web Surfing Could Hurt Your Work

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
Watching the daily habits of younger people has me afraid for the future of our industry. I'm not afraid that it won't survive, but that the work won't be much to talk about.

I know I sound like a really old person, but if you're young, this is something to consider as a possibility: You may not do great work if you aren't focusing on your work. The situation I'm speaking of concerns the priority of your time. Is your time being spent solving a problem or is it avoiding the problem by Internet surfing?

I read an article the other day about Paul McCartney by AP writer, Elizabeth Ryan. Mr. McCartney said that the inspiration for his newest album, "Memory Almost Full" was from a message on his cellphone. "It seemed symbolic of our lives today," he said. "Your messages are always full. And your mind is full. And it doesn't matter if you're my age or 20. I think that we all need to delete stuff every so often."

I concur. Apply McCartney's observation to your work. If you are cramming too much of everything (via the Internet) into your day and your brains, it could affect your work in a negative way because you're not focusing on the task at hand. Don't settle for less than you are capable of doing. Don't get me wrong; I love what the Internet has done for us creatively. It has dramatically enriched our ability to find information and inspiration. But many times while we're working, we aren't using the Internet as a tool so much as an entertainment source. It's a big problem, but I'm not writing about lost revenue. I'm writing about a person's career potential being sacrificed due to a bad habit and a lack of discipline.

I'm very proud of our staff. They work hard, but I wonder how much better their work would be if they could turn off their need for entertainment at will. People need random stimulus to create. The Internet can get ideas flowing and that makes it indispensable. I would never suggest to my staff not to browse. But checking out your fantasy football site when you should be looking for inspiration to write an ad for a woman's perfume is self-delusion. How in the world can anyone pay attention to the task at hand if they are compelled to check their email, I.M. and favorite sites every few minutes? My kids say they can do it, but then when I see their report cards, they tell a different story. Old or young, we cannot be distracted and do another task well.

Careers are fleeting in this industry. You can become outdated and expendable before you hit 40 if you don't focus and work your tail off. Every time I notice people goofing around while a golden opportunity is sitting on their desk, I worry for them. I wonder why they don't feel a sense of urgency to make their mark in the world. I wonder if they really understand how hard it is to actually make a mark in this business. So, I go back to what Mr. McCartney was quoted as saying; that we all need to delete stuff. I suggest, when it comes to our work, we delete the stuff that doesn't help make it our best.
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