Multitasking is a myth. It’s a myth that I think people use to make themselves feel busy, which in this economy, is synonymous to saying “I’m doing something meaningful with my life”. Let me break it (not so) gently: no, you’re not busy, it’s not meaningful, you’re just wasting your time.
When I meant multitasking in my blog, I didn’t mean “doing many things at once”. I meant, “has a lot of things to take care of”. Recently, I’ve been assigned to a new role and it requires me to learn as I do. It’s been hard trying to adjust, mainly because I keep trying to do and keep thinking of everything at once. I end up getting anxious and not being able to finish anything. So take it from me, multitasking is the fastest way to be unproductive.
Take it from the seniors, too
As I mature in work, I slowly understand what some of my mentors used to tell me. Pet, our former COO, used to tell me that my role as a Business Development guy is so broad that I might get frustrated at not being able to finish something and end up starting something else. Jane, our former CEO, repeatedly kept telling me that losing focus is a dangerous pitfall for someone in my line of work, because it’s easy to get distracted with the scope of Business Development. I remember her words, “You have to prioritize.” However, nothing beats the lesson I learned from my most influential mentor and good friend, who is my boss, too, Kamesh–she gives me autonomy over my work to decide which I have to prioritize, and if it seems I’m not able to, she tells me which one is priority, and why. I realize now that they have been telling me the same thing: keep your focus.
It seems it’s a successful habit
Everything we do to become productive directs our focus to a single, current and urgent task. Whether it’s moving to a quiet place, turning on music, making a to-do list or declining a meeting, it’s all about being able to focus to do things one at a time. Even my other officemates who I talked to about productivity told me the same thing: block out times for your tasks and focus at doing that.
Everyone who is successful is doing this. A friend told me that author Haruki Murakami even forces himself to sit down and work, even if he can’t, just to get the discipline of working. Seth Godin in a recent post says this, too: If you have so much to do, why not try to do one fewer thing to be able to do a world-class job on the rest? It seems successful habits are called successful for a reason.
This new learning is relevant to me: Focus fire instead of shotgun. I have decided to try this and to apply it to the plans I have for work and for the efforts I’ll put into it. Instead of pursuing multiple interests, I plan to pursuing ones that will have the best benefit for the company.
Personally though, my logic is simple: focus leads to learning, learning leads to mastery, and mastery leads to success and scarcity (and higher value). Being a dilettante of your field won’t show your value, being a master of it will. Last I checked, a great employee isn’t sought out the way an expert is.
Happy workweek, everyone!