I have just finished reading “Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.” He explores leadership, and one story stuck with me. He is talking about multi-tasking and the scientific research on the subject. Without going into all the detail, the evidence suggests that multitasking is NOT possible.
What we are doing is rapid-switching between multiple tasks. With each switch, our concentration and effectiveness diminish as we must re-orientate ourselves to the new job. So, our productivity is ironically much lower than when we to focus on one task at a time. It is the switching that reduces our effectiveness.
He gives an interesting example. Imagine an experienced air traffic controller responsible for the air space over your home town. The controller is managing the flights of many planes. His work pattern is as follows.
First he talks to plane A, then he glances down at his personal phone and sends a text to his friend, then he talks to plane B, then he picks up his phone and scrolls through Facebook, then he talks to plane C and then back to WhatsApp on his phone to arrange his night out. Round and round, his day continues. How safe would you feel in is hands, what if your child was aboard one of those planes?
He tells you he is a good multi-tasker! Do you trust him? Should we trust him when all the evidence says that multitasking is impossible? No, you’re right and nor do authorities. Using phones or doing anything else while working that job is rightly illegal. The same is true while we are driving.
Let’s think about our own busy lives. Are you using your phone while working, reviewing emails or reacting to the ping of a text? Are you browsing Facebook at the same time as talking to your partner or children or watching YouTube while studying?
We have a clear view of what is acceptable behaviour for a person in a responsible position like the air traffic controller, and yet we don’t seem to hold ourselves to the same standard. Are we any different? Is our work any less important?
If you are seeking to reach your goals and dreams, then I believe it is worth remembering that multitasking produces significantly worse results. The key lesson here is for us to stop trying to do more than one thing at a time.
Divide your day and hour up into chunks and do one activity for that period. Then move onto the next action. Turn off the notifications and alerts on your phone. Don’t allow distractions through that chunk of time. Focus your attention on one activity. When you have either finished that activity or your allotted time has run out then, AND ONLY THEN move onto the next task.
I can see the value in this approach. Reading Simon’s book was a eureka moment for me. I know how guilty I am of trying to multi-task. I don’t imagine it’s going to be an easy habit to break. But I’m going to give it a go. Will you join me? I hope so.
Your goals and dreams will become a reality when you put learning and personal growth at the heart of who you are. Yesterday doesn’t matter. It is what you do today and tomorrow that define who you will become. Change your daily habits and the future you have always imagined will become a reality. Long before others believe, you must believe it’s possible.
Remember, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.