Multi-tasking is about focus

Creating both personal and professional success requires the ability to make things happen and to get things done.

Being ineffective with your use of time is not an option. Yet there is so much that needs to be done.

Surely learning how to get more tasks completed at the same time is the most important skill that you can develop. And isn’t that what multi-tasking is all about? The truth is, it isn’t.

The most important skill that you can develop is the ability to focus on one task at a time.

iStock_000008217437SmallRecent research conducted by Michigan State University (MSU) highlights the importance of focus. This is especially true if you are performing complex tasks. The more complex the task, the larger the negative impact of letting yourself be distracted. Even small distractions as little as 2.8 seconds, such as checking a buzzing smart-phone, has dire consequences for your focus and your ability to complete complex tasks. Results indicated that error rates doubled even when these extremely short interruptions were present.

Multi-tasking is about your ability to focus on one task at a time. Then, as soon as you have completed that task or finished the time that you had allocated to that task, you quickly switch to another task and shift your focus to that task.

This means that you have to be pro-active and minimise distractions. Turn off your smart phone. Shut down your email application. Turn off your browser (unless you need it for the task you are completing) and explain to colleagues that you need a set period of uninterrupted time to focus on completing a task. If you have the option to work from home (assuming your home office provides an effective work space) complete complex tasks there, distraction free. This may be especially important if you work in an open space environment where staff interactions may generate a lot of distractions.

Train yourself to be a disciplined multi-tasker. Mastering this skill will have those around you wondering what your secret is. You’ll know that the answer comes from mastering a skill and that it doesn’t have anything to do with secrets. Just plain old focus and a willingness to be disciplined.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

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