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Don't be lazy »

Uber multi-tasker or single minded focus, either way you still have to start

Does multi-tasking work?

I think the answer to that question is both a yes and a no.

I think it is sensible to do certain things "at the same time" for example if I am waiting for the kettle to boil I might throw in a load of washing, or wash the dishes that always seem to lurk in my sink. But in reality I'm not doing things at the same time, I flicked the kettle on then I switched my attention to the laundry or the dishes, then flicked back to kettle once that had finished boiling so I could make my tea.

I used to be able to knit and read a book at the same time - but that came after lots of practice and when my kids were little and growing out of their jumpers as fast as I could knit them, believe me I had lots of practice. I still read - a lot, but I can't remember the last time I knitted anything. That aside:
The only time I can honestly say I multi-task anything is if I stop and allow my mind to wander off while the kettle is boiling, or while I am doing something physical that doesn't require much in the way of processing power. I can think and walk for instance. But allowing my mind to wander while my body is engaged in something physical unlocks the more creative side of things.

What I have found is that the best way I can get things completed is to focus my undivided attention on them and keep going until such time as the job / task is finished. Which is easier said than done of course. I rarely get any uninterrupted time as I am sure everyone reading this will attest to. If it's not phones ringing and pinging with notifications it's cars racing past / alarms / sirens / lawn mowers / leaf blowers / cats / kids / people talking or whatever sounds that manage to impinge on my thought processes and interrupt my train of thought. But and here is the key, once you have started something, interruptions aside, you can keep going once you start.

The main problem I have found is the starting.

It doesn't matter if you think you are an uber multi-tasker or single task finisher - if you don't want to start something you will find yourself doing other things to avoid doing so. You will procrastinate, guaranteed.
  • You will check your phone for messages,
  • You will search the news sites, surf the net or scroll through your facebook and twitter feeds
  • You may even decide to engage your colleagues with chat in the hope that something will inspire you to get back to whatever you should have been doing in the first place.
So, a suggestion If I may:

Start it - whatever you are putting off doing. For a flame to appear, you must have a spark. How do you get that spark? You create it by starting, you add a little bit of tinder and you coax the tiny flames until they are burning brightly. Every job you do is like that fire but you must find the spark by starting. It's up to you if you choose to do other things or focus your attention, but I would say that most people achieve more when they start, do  and then finish before moving on.

Your thoughts as always are appreciated.



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