Focus Tip #1

So you think that “Multitasking” is a good thing.

I’m reading a book right now called “Crazy Busy” by a man named Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.  A very interesting read!

One of the chapters is called, “The Myth and Reality of Multitasking.”  In the chapter, he says this, “Multitasking refers to a mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.”

To appreciate how faulty that notion is, Dr. Hallowell goes on to describe how we play tennis.

“Imagine you’re playing tennis.  You hit the ball and immediately get ready to make your best shot.  You focus single mindedly on the ball; the better the player you are, the more focused you become.  You put all your energy, experience, instinct, and thought into each shot as well as the shot you pan to hit next.

Now imagine playing tennis with two balls.  You have to keep track of both, running each down, watching our opponent do the same, as you frantically try to keep two balls in play at once.  There is no way your game with two balls could be as good as your game with one. 

Multitasking is like playing tennis with two balls, or three, or four.”

What a great visual as to why multitasking doesn’t work.

We tend to focus on too much which causes confusion.  Allow me to give you a practical solution to this problem.

Several years ago, I was struggling with this exact problem.  The problem was that my desk was full.  I mean FULL!  I had several stacks on it, a stapler, a three-hole punch, my computer, a printer, a phone, a box of Kleenex, a cup that hold pencils and pens—you get the picture.

Let’s say I was working on a project.  I’d have the papers of the project right in front of me.  The problem was that I had three or four other projects that I was going to work on that day on top of the desk also.

As I’m focused on the one current project that I was working on, the other projects would be whispering to me,

“Hey Robert!!!  What about me???  Did you forget about ME?????

Each stack would be vying for my attention.  What would invariably happen would be that I would push the current stack away and begin working on one of the other stacks.

The problem?  I hadn’t finished the original stack!

All day long, I felt like I was pushing piles around.  But I wasn’t completing anything!  Sound familiar?

So what was the solution?

Here’s what I did.  First, I took everything off my desk.  I mean everything!  All I have on my desk now is my laptop, my phone, and whatever I’m working on at the present moment.  Everything else is on a credenza behind my line of sight.

I now use my desk drawers for pens, pencils, paperclips, scotch tape holders, staplers, etc.  You get the picture.  MY DESKTOP IS CLEAN!!!

So imagine that I’m working on whatever it is that I’m working on.  I have to CONSCIOUSLY make the decision to pick up whatever that is, move it to the credenza, and then pick up a NEW thing that I’m going to be working on.  Obviously, the key word there is “consciously.”  Until I consciously make the decision to change what I’m working on, I don’t switch.

What this causes is for me to stay on task—One task at a time!  That’s the key.

There are no other stacks or projects whispering my name.  They’re out of sight, and thankfully out of mind.

In essence, I’m throwing all the “tennis balls” off of the court of my desk.

Try it and see what happens!!!

Enter Your Mail Address

  1. Michael Wright
    Michael Wright03-19-2012

    I have found this to be so true at work! Focus on one thing at a time and you’ll get MUCH more done at the end of the day, week, month..

    • Robert Mallon
      Robert Mallon03-19-2012

      Right you are!

Leave a Reply