Finish Before You Start

Everybody knows procrastination is bad. What many people don’t know is that multi-tasking is one of the worst forms of procrastination you’ll ever see.

I know there are people who swear by their multi-tasking “skills.” If you’re one of those I’d like to ask you to sing your favorite song WHILE you read this post. Not AFTER you read it and not BEFORE, read it WHILE you’re singing. That’s multi-tasking!

If you’re so confident in your ability to multi-task then I have another offer for you. If you’re willing to read this while you sing there will be a test available for you online. If you answer every question right you’ll receive a check for a million bucks. (That might be fake news)

Are you still confident enough to risk a million bucks by reading this WHILE you sing?

If you are then I’ll bet you’ve cost yourself way more than a million bucks worth of productivity through the years. That’s because rather than improve your productivity multi-tasking kills it.

For the record, actual multi-tasking is impossible for a human being to do. You can have a bunch of balls in the air but you can only focus on one at a time. You cannot compartmentalize your brain to do two entirely different things at exactly the same time. You simply can’t.

So you move from one thing to another to another going back and forth and back and forth. You do none of them as effectively as if you were focusing on them one at a time. All this switching back and forth causes each task to take longer to accomplish as well.

4 tasks done singularly, to the exclusion of other distractions may take an hour. Doing those tasks all at once through multi-tasking (at least what people think is multi-tasking) will likely add at least 25% to the time it takes to complete them all. That means your one hour of productivity has consumed nearly 90 minutes.

If you don’t believe that then you have never used a time log to determine where your time goes during each 24 hour period that we call a day.

The most productive people finish what they are doing before they start something new. If it’s a big task they may break it into pieces and work on it at different times of the day or different days of the week. But when they are not working on it they put it out of sight so as to not be distracted by it.

Focus wins the productivity battle! It always has and it always will.

If you’re attempting to focus on several things at once then you have no focus. Sorry to break that to you but the sooner you believe it the sooner your productivity will soar!

Skip the multi-tasking for a week. See if you’re not accomplishing more. Prove me wrong if you dare to try. But if I’m right you won’t need me to send you a million bucks; you’ll be on your way to making it on your own.

The Power of Focus

Somebody a lot smarter than me once said “the man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” I don’t recall who said it but it’s absolutely true.

But there is a way that guy can catch both rabbits. He just has to chase them one at a time.

That’s focus.

If you can’t say no to many things then you’ll find it impossible to say yes to focus. In most areas of your life what you choose not to do will determine what you are able to do. If you’re trying to do too much you fall victim to what is known as task saturation. If you fall into that trap you end up accomplishing far less than the person focused on one thing at a time.

That’s the big illusion that multi-taskers present to themselves. They believe they can do many things well and that they can do them all at once. But every bit of research shows without a doubt that they are fooling themselves.

One person doing eight things one at a time will do them better and faster than one person trying to do all eight of them at once. That’s the power of focus.

Some people would tell you they can’t focus. That’s not exactly right. What they can’t do is decide. They can’t decide on their priorities. They are like a kid in a candy store…they want it all and they want it right now.

That “kid in the candy store” mentality causes them to accomplish things right at the deadline. They get them done in the nick of time because suddenly they didn’t have to decide what to do next, a deadline made the decision for them. The problem is, things done at the deadline are seldom done as well as those things done with time to spare.

The most successful people possess laser like focus. They invest a bit of time, well actually some serious time, in determining their priorities and then they go after them to the exclusion of all distractions.

Warren Buffett has laser focus and he has a dependable process to keep it that he shares with people who struggle with their own focus.

He’ll ask them to invest some time to write out their top 25 goals. These can be life goals, 10 year goals or goals for the coming month or year. Once they have that list he asks them to review it and select their top 5.

So now they have two lists, let’s call them list one and list two. Buffett asks what the person intends to do with list two. Most say that they will work on them as time permits because while they are not as important as list one they are still important.

That’s when Buffett gives them life altering advice. He tells them list two is actually their “avoid at all cost” list. He says that list should get zero attention until list one is 100% complete. That’s what focus looks like in practice.

I can tell you from personal experience that focusing is easy when compared to developing the lists. If you want success with your own list one you must be willing to sacrifice everything on list two.

Most people are able to do that but are unwilling to do that. Those 20 things on list two prevent them from achieving any of the things on list one. In their case, ALL the rabbits got away.

Some would say if you’re focusing on more than one thing you don’t really have focus. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt and say so long as you’re focusing on one at a time you can maybe have five or six things on your radar.

Any more than that and you might as well be Elmer J. Fudd.