So if doing the most important thing is the most important thing, why would you try to do anything else at the same time?
I live a very hectic life and have different roles to take on during the day. I run a charity foundation with its many projects and subsidiaries and I’m also managing our private family business. I have two kids, two dogs, and one husband. People who don’t know me usually think I am a master of multitasking. The truth is, I actually suck at it.
When I became a mother, I felt like my “To Do” list kept growing and the available time kept shrinking. I came to the conclusion that in this new stage of my life, I’ll have to learn to multitask because there is no other way to go.
I tried to do that for 2 years and it made me miserable. I wasn’t achieving the results I was hoping, my stress levels were through the roof, and time to complete the task was longer than usual. Not to mention that coming back home to family felt like a job, not a pleasure and a place where I refuel.
I live with one of the greatest champions in the world of sport and I can certainly see – when you want to be good at something, you need: focus, focus, focus.
You cannot do several things at the same time and achieve big results. You may think you are progressing when you are ticking those items off the list, but the truth is, you are not really able to differentiate what’s important and what’s not important because you are overwhelmed.
When you are doing too many things at the same time, the progress is microscopic and the feeling of disappointment is macroscopic.
In situations when I feel I am lacking answers and solutions to the ongoing problems (that I always prefer calling challenges), I always resort to the books. For this kind of “challenge”, I’ve found a great book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.
The book is all about restructuring your life, setting up priorities and long-term goals to achieve success. You have to focus on what you do well, go deep and understand what are the habits of successful people and what it takes to succeed.
You need to find your ONE thing and drive it all the way to success.
Here are the ten quotes that were taken out from the book that really rang true for me:
- “Multitasking leads to mistakes, poor choices, and stress. It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”
- You can actually give focus to two things, but that is what it’s called “divided attention”. Take on two things and your attention gets divided. Take on a third and something gets dropped.
- You can do two things at once but you cannot focus effectively on two things at once. Even an idle phone conversation when driving takes a 40% bite out of your focus and, surprisingly, can have the same effect as being drunk. (Driven to distraction by Matt Richtel)
- Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions. And so, chronic multitaskers develop a distorted sense of how long it takes to do things. They almost always believe tasks take longer to complete than is actually required. Researchers estimate we lose 28% of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness.
- Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time. – Steve Uzzell
- Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.
- To do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction.
- You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.
- Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
- Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.
All of this shows that we shouldn’t multitask if we are striving to achieve success at what we do. But what if you have to?
I do have to be a mom, wife, businesswoman, friend, sister… All of these roles require my attention and yet I cannot be all of it at the same time.
Focus on One thing. Go small.
In this book, authors are saying you need to focus and chose your one thing at the time. The more you take, the less well you’ll do. Choose your big goal and start clearing up distractions.
Going small is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
You cannot be good at everything at once.
You have to suck at something while you are focusing on being good at the thing you chose to be the priority. As long as you know your priorities, and have them always in front of you, you’ll be able to ignore the noise around you.
A few years ago, when we had the privilege to have dinner with Elon Musk while in New York, I asked him about his time and energy management as I was fascinated how he is succeeding to lead 3 companies (and take care of 5 children). He answered that he takes 2 days for Space X, 2 days for Tesla and 2 days for SolarCity. I found that his strategy really works when I applied it to my business. I have divided up my chores, decided to focus on one at the time and luckily, regained balance and clarity at work.
Now, I am learning to prioritize things better and to clear up the clutter. I have started dedicating specific time in the day for the mail and I definitely do not respond to it as it arrives. Another very valuable skill that I am still learning is how to delegate tasks and responsibilities efficiently. Some tasks that I enjoy doing I keep for myself, and others I try to delegate to people with more skills, time and passion for them.
But even though this may all sound rosy, know that I am still very much a work in progress and despite me trying to be better at this, many things still keep popping up and messing up with my simple approach. That’s why I always need to remind myself that there is nothing wrong in striving for perfection in what you do, but that doesn’t mean we will ever reach it. Not in this lifetime. But as long as I keep focusing on what I love doing, I believe I am on a good path.
Are you a multitasker? Did I convince you to give it up? Let’s talk about your little secrets to successful life. Share your comments below.