Our ability to Focus, or not, was my topic for this week's show (archive) and it was a good one.
One of the topics that came up repeatedly in a recent training was how can what I teach help us to be able to focus and to still be able to do lots of things? It is as if we think that focus will slow us down somehow. That we won't get enough done if we stopped rushing around. So we wonder how can we rush around but still focus.
So how focused do you feel as you rush around? Isn't that precisely when you are more likely you leave the house and forget the lunch you packed?
I often hear people say that the solution to getting a lot done is to learn to multi-task better. Many times I've had clients tell me, "my problem is I'm just not that good at multi-tasking." We look with envy at others and their ability to be super-soccer Moms that juggle kids and high-pressure jobs. But should we?
On Yahoo recently people were talking about how AMAZING Obama is at multi-tasking, as one put it, Obama was dealing with "Birth certificate/Trump, Bin Laden, was in Florida for the shuttle launch (unfortunately postponed), spoke at the Correspondents Dinner, gave speeches on the budget, went on Oprah, all in the last week!"
I doubt that President Obama is managing all of these things on his lonesome and that his ability to keep the country ticking over is down to his great 'multi-tasking' but still, look at how we love and revere the multi-tasker! We imagine they are jetting from place to place while tapping into their iPad, signing up new business on the phone from a seat on an airplane all while writing a blog and the next great American novel and managing their children's homework via our revved up, multi-device, superhero lifestyles.
Then we are down on ourselves when we are not doing the same.
We can't see a way out that is any more profound than just getting more done.
We also intuitively know that when we are overloaded our work is poor quality, we become more forgetful and we are actually more likely to need to repeat what we've done or redo it.
Ever regretted pressing that 'SEND' button in the rush of trying to get through the inbox?
Research has long pointed to the fact that the human brain only processes one thing at a time. Recently studies are showing that our ability to pay attention, use memory and switch from one task to another is deteriorating. (Stanford report).
So where is our adoration for the joys of multi-tasking coming from? Is there real evidence that multi-focus is the new fabulousness?
We would do well to look beyond the anecdotal evidence that multi-tasking is good. Which is the better measure of our productivity, doing a bunch of things poorly, or doing a few things well? You don't have to choose, but if you did, which seems better to you?
What I want to suggest is that when we have true focus, we do tasks well, enjoy them more and complete them fully with fewer mistakes at a natural pace.
Let me suggest a few simple measures of whether or not you are using that kind of focus. Here is what being focused feels like:
- creatively juiced up
- time irrelevance
- behind the eight ball
- doing over and over
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