Understanding Success – Part Seven

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the seventh post of an eight post series. They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. The goal of this series is not to get you thinking about success, it’s to help you do the things that successful people do and less successful people don’t. The choice of success is completely up to you, always keep that important fact in mind.

One way successful people listen well is by focusing on the other person’s words and non verbal communications. But they don’t just focus on someone speaking, they focus period.

They also understand that focus means focus. They know that focusing on more than a very small handful of things is not really focus at all. Successful people do more than enough to succeed but they also know that trying to do too much usually ends up with less actually being done.

There is a proverb that says when you chase two rabbits you most often catch neither. That’s true with more than just rabbits. It’s true when chasing your goals as well.

Your focus should be a reflection of your core values and the goals that come out of them. For instance, if I just watched you for a week would I be able to tell what things in your life are a focus for you? Would I be able to tell what’s important to you? The odds are the answer to that question is no. It’s no because we fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent, we focus on the urgent things of life rather than the truly important things of life. 

Taking a business call while having dinner with your family is a prime example of the tyranny of the urgent, the call may have been “urgent” but your family is important. “Urgent” comes and goes, important, ignored long enough, just goes. Very, very, very few of you have “business” that will ever be more important than your family but if you lack the ability to focus on the important things it will surly look that way.

Some people have convinced themselves that they have this skilled called multi-tasking but successful people understand that true multi-tasking is a myth. What passes for multi-tasking is in fact the greatest productivity killer of all time. Multi-tasking is the opposite of focus and people who believe they can accomplish more by “focusing” on several things at once are just fooling themselves. They are in fact fooling themselves straight into failure. 

Focus is singular, it requires that whatever it is you’re doing you do it to the exclusive of everything else. No one needs to focus 24 hours a day but the reality for less successful people is that they have little or no focus in their life at all. 

Focus on focusing, block out the urgent things that don’t matter in the long run and focus on the important things that do. 

 

The Truth About Multitasking

Most everyone agrees that focus is a major key to success. The ability to block out distractions and hone in on the task required for success is often what separates the most successful people from the merely successful people.

Multitasking is nearly the exact opposite of focus. 

As technology allows people to do more tasks at the same time, the myth that we can multitask has never been stronger. But researchers say it’s still a myth and they have the data to prove it.

“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, “The brain is very good at deluding itself.” Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

What we can do, he said, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed.

“Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” Miller said. “You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”

In reality, multitasking slows your thinking. A brain attempting to perform two tasks simultaneously will, because of all the back-and-forth stress, exhibit a substantial lag in information processing. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.

The research just goes on and on regarding how multitasking is ineffective. There is no research that shows multitasking to be effective.

Now I know that a substantial number of people reading this will disagree. They will say THEY are excellent at multitasking and that they are accomplishing more than they ever could without it. Please reread professor Miller’s comments again… you’re deluding yourself. 

Some people are indeed better at multitasking than others but no one is truly “good” at multitasking.

The truth is, and always has been, that focus, singular focus, is a key to success. Multi-tasking is a key to failure. 

Just another reason why the difference between success and failure is often in the choices we make.

Choose focus!