People are always talking about multitasking, and they think it’s a talent -- but I think it’s counterproductive to success. It means you’re dividing your attention into a million parts. If you’re talking on the phone to a client but doing some kind of household chore or even reading a magazine while talking, you are not fully engaging your client. You’re not in the flow of the conversation.
Your client deserves better, don’t you think? In the same way, your life deserves better. The ability to single-task -- to give one thing your undivided attention -- is one of the keys to true productivity. Not the kind of productivity where you knock off 20 items from your to-do list while still managing to run 15 miles and respond to 20 emails. Sure, that kind of productivity feels good.
But I’m talking about the kind of productivity where you actually achieve your goals, where you accomplish important and long-lasting things. It means finishing major projects rather than doing a million little things that don’t add up to anything lasting. It means quality productivity instead of quantity productivity.
Once you’ve learned to give your undivided attention to that one thing -- to laser-focus on the important projects -- you will automatically shift into the flow. That’s because flow is how you get them done. You block out all extraneous noise, all phone calls, all menial tasks, all interruptions, and you just focus. You are able to sit and focus on that one task long enough to complete it. When you can work in the flow, you can accomplish anything.
Getting consumed by tedious tasks and busy work is a major battle many of us face each day. Every morning when we get up, the first thing on our minds should be the projects and tasks that will ultimately give us the biggest return on energy (ROE). The reason why this is extremely difficult for most people to do is because often what gives us the biggest ROE and reward is also usually the hardest and most time-consuming of everything that we have to do.
Sending emails, talking on the phone, cleaning up your desk and moving from place to place might seem like you are getting a lot done, but as I stated above, there is a major difference between quality productivity and quantity productivity. If we all took the time to assess our current habits and schedules and pinpoint what is consuming most of our time and energy, we may be surprised at how much time and effort we give to the non-urgent things in our lives.
Even though multitasking may make you feel accomplished temporarily, it’s not a way to go about business or achieving your main goal. It's nearly impossible to be a master at your craft and become the absolute best if you're always focusing your efforts in 10 different ways. By shifting our priorities to the big tasks and projects that add extreme value to our goals, we begin to feel accomplished and deeply fulfilled -- not just a person accomplishing a lot of busy work.