“To do two things at once is to do neither.”
Many people ask me how I get so much done. As you already know one of the answers to that is simply: put in the work. You can probably guess the second answer but I’ll tell you this, your guess is likely wrong. Most people say “You must be really good at multitasking.” No, its actually the opposite. So let me start at the beginning.
Firstly you have to have a clear vision, a clear vision on what you want to accomplish. I say, start with the end in mind by looking at 10 years in the future. At least 10 years! Then break down that plan backwards and set your goals accordingly to reach that vision of 10 years from now. Obviously this goal should be something GIANT. Like revolutionizing the fitness industry, opening 100 studios etc. Now, anything and everything you do should be related to that vision and those goals. Each goal’s outcome should reflect that goal. I even ask questions when I try to see a movie at night or go out, “How is this activity going to get me closer to my goal?” If the answer is not good, I quit doing that activity.
So now that you are clear on your vision and goals, you need to create a list of things that will get you to those goals. And on that list you need to ask the right questions until you can determine the main 20% of actions/activities that will get you the results of 80% of what needs to get done! The point is that if you only do that 20% of tasks, it will move you and your vision and company or personal goals forward the most! Now that you have the main 20% of the list identified, you should keep doing this activity of determining what from that 20% will move you forward the most, until you determine the #1 task to move you farthest towards your goal.
And there it is! Now that you have the #1 task you can act on. But you must always collect undeniable data and act on it! Which might require you to completely change directions. Have a vision but be comfortable with changing and continuously adjusting your plan according to the world and market changes. Just look at the retail giants, they ignored the changes that amazon brought and look where it got them.
And here comes the main thing where most people screw up. Multitasking! Just think about this. If doing the most important thing is the most important thing why would you try to do anything else at the same time? In the summer of 2009 Clifford Nass answered that question with a huge research project at Stanford University. This research was also published in the New York Times. They divided their subjects into two groups of high and low multitaskers and began with the presumption that the frequent multitaskers would perform better. Well they were wrong. By a lot! It turns out that high multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy. They were out performed on every single measure possible! Although they convinced themselves and the world that they are really good overall because they’re good at multitasking, there was just one problem: Multitaskers were actually just lousy at everything!
Multitasking is a lie. It’s a lie because almost everyone on this world accepts it as an effective thing to do. It’s become so mainstream that people actually think it’s something they should do and do as often as possible. They even list it as one of the highlights on their resume. The reality is that multitaskers are just mediocre at many things whereas all amazing leaders and performers like Steve Jobs would only focus on one thing at any given time! That doesn’t mean they didn’t have 10 projects at the same time, it means they picked one and they put 100% into that one at the time.
There are over 6 million websites that try to teach you how to get better at mutli-tasking, when you shouldn’t even focus on it. You should be focusing on your strength. Find out your strength and triple down on it! It will get you way further.
The bottom line is that when you try to do two things at once you either cant or wont do either well. If you think it’s an effective way to get more things done you’ve got it backwards. Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at the same time! If you’re having trouble digesting this and want to learn more I highly recommend to read the book “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller.
Gary actually gets into details on channeling your brain and gets into the science behind it. In short, there is just so much brain capability at any one time. Divide it up as much as you want, but you will pay a price in time and effectiveness. The more time you spend switched to other tasks, the less likely you are to get back to your original task and this is how loose ends pile up. Bouncing between ideas, you lose time as your brain reorients to the new task. Those milliseconds add up to roughly 28% of your average workday given to multitasking effectiveness. Chronic multitaskers have developed a distorted sense of how long it takes to do things. They almost believe tasks take longer to complete than actually required. The other issue is that multitaskers make way, way more mistakes then non-multitaskers. Multitaskers experience more life reducing, happiness-taking stress. With clear signs of being overwhelmed, which leads to poor choices and stress.
Now that I am writing this I realize I should have thought about this topic before my book got published. I would have definitely written an entire chapter about multitasking and how to get more done. The good news is that the book mentioned above is all about that! You have a few hundred pages explaining the details of it, so go pick it up!