The Phone Rang and My Day Went to Heck

October 31, 2018

multitaskingMy schedule yesterday was mapped out perfectly.  I had several big projects, and I was locked down to tackle them.

Then the phone rang, and my day went sideways.

“If you could just look at this,” the caller asked.

And that was the end of making progress on my big projects.

My focus had been redirected to many things, not the few requiring my attention.

I bet this happens to you, too.  Many times every day.

You don’t get more done.  You accomplish less.

So, I’m just going to call it.

The key to better focus is to give up multitasking.

Sometimes in our frenetic pace to do more, and be more, the importance of focus seems forgotten.

Chris and I think of focus as narrowing that big list of yours to what we call the Critical Few.

Steve Jobs agrees with us on this focus thing.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.  You have to pick carefully.  I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.” – Steve Jobs

I know asking you to give up multitasking is like asking you to hand over your first child.  Worse, maybe you’d rather do that than give up multitasking.  Doing lots of things at the same time feels so productive, doesn’t it?

Hey, let’s be real.  You’re probably multitasking right now as you read this.  Have music playing in the background?  Or several web pages open? Or peeking at a note on your desk?

What if you were totally focused on being a one-tasker?

What if you focused on only one thing, one business problem, one task, one conversation?  Say…your goal for 2018?  It’s still within reach, or you can at least make a serious advance on it.

Here’s what would happen:  you’d be more focused and adaptive and, therefore, a better decision maker.  The better you are at making decisions, the more problems you’ll solve, and the more problems you solve the more productive you become.

We’re not the only ones possessing this wisdom.  Research has our back.  Research says multitasking is a myth and can actually damage your brain.

Steve Jobs said he pushed back a thousand things.  Great.  But none of us are Jobs with a gigantic team and massive resources at our fingertips.

How do we become a one-focuser?

  1. Declutter your mind. Before all else, declutter the “stuff” you’re allowing into your world.  Stuff that’s not important to hit your ONE GOAL.  Meetings, appointments, phone calls or an inability to delegate.  The less cluttered your mind, the better your focus.
  2. Eliminate interruptions. Technology interrupts.  Your team interrupts.  Your family interrupts.  Your dog interrupts.  Constant distractions sway you off your path.  Put your cell in another room (gulp).  Slap a yellow sticky on your closed door saying no interruptions until a certain, designated time.  What do you gain by managing interruptions?  Three to four hours a day on average.  Just sayin’.
  3. Identify your time robbers. Who or what sucks away your time?  Schedule specific blocks of time for your team to talk with you, look at your emails or return phone calls.  Then your time robbers know when they can have your undivided attention, and they’ll cooperate with this new approach.
  4. Say no to your own unbelief. Sometimes the whole business of being a one-focuser comes down to your mindset, in believing in yourself.  You’ve got big goals, hairy goals, a purpose to be fulfilled.  You must stay positive as it’s a journey.  Turn around and look at your progress and watch how it accelerates as you become a one-focuser.

Do you feel like you’re always on a frantic pace to do more and be more?

With only two more months this calendar year, the time to accomplish whatever you’ve set out to do…to hit your goal, improve your revenue or get a few more customers so January doesn’t move slower than my finishing time in a 37-mile bike ride last weekend…is within reach.

Choose your one focus and go get it.  There’s still time.


Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon & Chris Williams