I used to pride myself on how many thoughts I could carry in my head at the same time. On a conference call, I could answer emails and make notes for other meetings.
The coffee pot was strapped to my back as I went through the day at warp speed.
Then one day I realized something. My attention to detail was inadequate. Items I should have known about, got passed me. I explained it away by always telling myself that I am a “big picture guy.”
Books I had read always pointed out that multi-tasking was a strength that the most successful people had.
Then I began to focus on the habits of some very successful entrepreneurs in my circle of friends. All very good multi-taskers.
That is when it dawned on me. These people were missing out on some key details about their business as well. Maybe multi-tasking isn’t a strength or a badge of honor. Maybe it is a weakness.
So I decided to make a change. I began to focus on one task at a time and see if it made a difference. Here is what I found out.
When I focused fully on the subject at hand, the meetings ended faster and with concise next steps. We did not veer off topics and have side discussions. If a meeting was 30 minutes, it was usually over in 25.
My preparation for meetings improved which also contributed to the speed of the meeting. This enabled me to think about the issue at hand in a different way. My understanding of the details improved.
My inbox has always been very organized. It is one area where I take pride. But, I do average over 300 emails a day. Any reduction in this number is a big win for me.
Because I was only focusing on one thing at a time, my responses to emails became clearer and required less follow up.
The overall effect on my inbox was significant. That saved me a good amount of time each day.
Focusing on one task at a time made me a better leader. It enabled me to listen better and truly hear what my people were saying regarding all of our projects.
Having a better grasp of the details enabled me to support my team and give them the tools and direction they needed to complete tasks faster. As a group, we became more productive.
Focusing on one task at a time was less frenzied. I didn’t feel like a juggler who was maniacally trying to get through the day. I felt calmer and in control.
The team around me seemed to be calmer as well. I did not feel this need to have my phone strapped to my ear speaking to someone at all times. I felt like I was accomplishing a lot more in a day than when I was multi-tasking. Overall, I became a happier, more satisfied person.
I was still as busy as I was before. My business was growing, and there was always a lot of work to do. Additionally, my family responsibilities didn’t diminish. There was a never-ending wave of kids activities.
But I made setting my schedule as a focus. So each day, I would review what I had to do and make better notes about my day’s priorities. What I found was that I was taking a lot of meetings that I really didn’t need to take. But because I was such a great multi-tasker, I would accept them. Now, I began to organize my schedule differently.
Overall what I learned through this experience was that for me, multi-tasking was not a strength but a weakness. It was holding me back from accomplishing the important things I needed to be doing to scale my business.
To me, multi-tasking is an excuse for not accomplishing the right things. When you miss something, there is always the “I’m so busy, I can’t get it all done” excuse. But that is just an excuse. Focusing on the right things at the right time is real leadership.
The next accomplishment needs to be cutting back on the coffee. Maybe I will switch to decaf and see how that goes.