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Multi-Tasking is B.S. (and I don’t mean “Bachelor of Science”)

Hi, I trust you and yours are well.

Thank you always for reading my books and free bi-monthly broadcasts and using my tools and strategies for winning in a VUCA world with freedom, power and peace of mind.*

*You probably know by now: VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Perhaps you also know the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times 😉

Do you find yourself answering emails while on conference calls, and sometimes even when you’re on the phone with one person? In meetings, do you pretend to take notes on your laptop but really surf the Web or order lunch? Do you eat lunch at your desk, or text while driving? Multi-tasking has been shown to lengthen the time to finish a task by an average of 25 percent.

Between 25 and 50 percent of people report being overwhelmed or stressed out at work. Why? Not just because we work long hours, but also because we spend too many hours juggling too many things at once.

Multi-tasking is a myth. When we “multi-task” and answer emails while writing slides for an upcoming workshop, we don’t multi-task, we really switch back and forth between two things.

Recent studies have demonstrated that people who are interrupted while doing a particular task take 25 minutes to get back to the task they started.

In my view, multi-tasking is really a euphemism for what I call focus anxiety. Focus anxiety is the obsessive feeling that while I’m working on one thing, I should really be doing some other thing.

Focus anxiety lurks everywhere and can rear its ugly head without notice. For example, this morning I had a brief moment of focus anxiety while deciding if I should write this blog post while simultaneously thinking I should spend that same time building slides for a workshop next week. Sound familiar?

I am much more productive (not to mention satisfied) when I can focus on one thing at a time and get it done before moving on to the next thing.

As the Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.”

Here are three simple practices that I have found useful: Start your day NOT with your incoming mail but with your top priority, and don’t do anything else until you have made a sizable dent with that priority. Schedule out your time for the coming week BEFORE you start the week and declare what you will NOT do that week. End each day by setting up the next day.

Remember, if you always say Yes to everything, you are not a leader but a mere pinball of circumstances. Leaders must have the discipline to say No.

What do you think? Is multi-tasking possible in your experience? Do you have a story of what happened when you juggled several tasks at once? What best practices have you found? I look forward to reading you.

P.S. To learn more about the power of focusing on one thing, check out The Rabbi and the CEO: The Ten Commandments for 21st Century Leaders (now available in German).

What do you think? I look forward to reading you




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