This phrase is on Bill Nye’s ( The Science Guy) license plate and what a great concept!
Sure, there is always too much to do and someone always needs something; but splitting your attention and attempting to do too many things at one time rarely pays off. Some detail gets overlooked, a critical phrase gets left off and you end up having to go back and fix or repair.
As John Wooden famously said, “ If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you find time to do it right the second time? “ My most frequent mistakes come when I am not totally focused on what I need to accomplish. It is often only after I have hit ‘send’ or heard a reply back from something that I have realized I made a mistake, and worse, a mistake that I didn’t have to make, and now have to take the time to fix it.
It’s Almost Irresistible
I find myself on the phone and answering an email at the same time. My email has errors and I just missed the important point of the conversation. Even with the sorta sly use of a headset, so no one hears me typing, my inattention ultimately derails my attempt to do two things at once. When I look back at my work product, something always needs rewording, tweaking or editing.
But the inbox continues to fill and the temptation to send off a quick reply to a query to get it off my desk and check one more thing off the list is tough to resist. For a long time, I didn’t try to resist, I figured I could do it all well enough and was proud of my ‘efficiency’.
Some things are more easily done while doing something else, but driving and talking on the phone is not one, reviewing client emails and listening to a webinar on better business practices is not one either. How many times have you sat in on a conference call and heard the tapping of a keyboard? I confess some of those times it may have been me.
Recently we have been trained to get as much done as possible; the demands on our time and attention have never been greater. Resist the temptation ( always easier said than done); force yourself to set aside your time and attention to focus on whatever is your priority, and then get it done. Do it right, proof your work and move on.
Yes, it requires discipline, and doing several things at once is a tough habit to break. Even as I write this, the lure of my inbox or Twitter is hard to avoid. But giving in will distract and divert my attention and this blog will take twice as long to complete if I give in.
Start with one project that you know needs your full attention, say the monthly financial statement or a rework of your mission statement. Train your focus on what that work needs to look like when done well and comprehensively and don’t allow yourself to look at anything else until it is done. Maybe take a break to check your inbox before you go back for a final proof, but sign, seal and deliver that project before you let yourself consider doing something else.
It might be hard at first, but tough it out and see how you feel about your work and this discipline once you are done.
Looking past Your Shoulder
In Los Angeles, people often look over your shoulder as they speak to you, just in case there is someone more interesting behind you. I always dislike that, feeling as if I don’t really deserve that person’s full attention. Treat your work the same way: direct eye contact and focus until it is done.
You can do the dishes and chat on the phone, but you can’t focus on driving and talking on the phone. Your important work deserves your best attention, do one thing at a time, do it well and once.
Need some help?
If we can help you to figure out what you can do along with other tasks and which deserve your sole focus, give a call. I bet you might find your productivity may increase more than you can imagine, and how nice would that be?
image credit :http://www.paulthecounsellor.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/multitasking.jpg