Can You Really Multi-Task?

One of the greatest fallacies is that of multi-tasking. All those people who do emails, while on a call and having a conversation at the same time, are really not accomplishing things as effectively as someone who concentrates their efforts on one thing at a time.

Studies on the impact of multi-tasking on one’s memory, learning, and cognitive functioning reveal some astonishing facts. First and foremost, multi-taskers pay a big mental price by processing too much irrelevant information. Too much irrelevant information you say? What happens when we multi-task is that our attention shifts from one activity to another. This back and forth results in an inability to pay attention to one thing at a time, memory control is diminished. Effectively, there is a lack of focus. Why do think governments are legislating anti-texting or anti-cell phone use while driving? You simply can’t focus on several things at the same time. If you do you lose focus on all things.

Take an introspective look at yourself. I’m more than certain you’ll find that you’re a multi-tasking follower, completely convinced you’re able to drive through one activity to the other with great efficiency and ease. I know I did, but when I actually thought about what I was doing and what I was thinking when I multi-tasked, I was more than a little surprised at how little I was actually doing. Don’t only take my word for it, researchers have found several common attributes of a multi-tasker. Let’s take a look:

  • Always stuck in gear: The multi-taskers have a difficult time redirecting their attention away from irrelevant information. They take in everything around them, resulting in a diminished ability to actually focus. How many times have you tried to work on a computer while listening to a conversation on a phone, only to realize you tuned out on what was happening on the phone? When this happens we usually innocently say that our mind was focusing on something then we sheepishly ask them to repeat what they said. This pretty well happens to me every time.
  • It doesn’t stick: Multi-taskers are poor at retaining things because they move on to the next task so quickly they don’t have time to register and retain important elements in their short-term memory.
  • Mental confusion: Multi-taskers end up doing things they shouldn’t be doing, and it interferes with the things they should be doing.

Being a multi-tasker may seem like it’s possible to do many things at the same time; the problem is that, although it may appear that way, they end up not doing anything well. If you simply concentrate on what’s really important, rather than on everything, you can begin to simplify your life. Part of the clutter we have in life is that we try to do too many things at the same time. Believe it or not, less is more, not the other way around. By changing simple things, like the way we do work, can lead to real, effective changes in our lives. Reduce the things you’re doing to increase the things you want to do. Changing your life begins with simple steps like this, not through grand gestures and shocks.

You have to have a certain focused alertness and not be afraid to toss things over the side of the ship. This is one of the hardest behavioral changes facing people. The easiest way to understand and embrace this principle is to imagine that you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have less than one year to live. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you find out what’s relevant and important. Goals come in clear perspective and action is focused and intense. The essence of managing your time isn’t to do all things, and by default, those things you don’t need to do. Realize what parts of the task you need to do and who’s best placed to do it. When dealing with changing priorities and goals, it becomes necessary to be ruthless. Remember, it’s impossible to do everything.

Are you doing what’s important, or just doing things?

Feel free to share your answer in the comments.

Safeguard Your Time

As I sit in the coffee shop gazing out the window at the traffic outside, I can’t help but ask myself where all my time goes. I’ve managed to carve out some precious moments to linger over a tea, think, and write. Time has managed to slow down in this instance, and yet, I know when I leave this coffee shop, the gears will slam into high gear again and these moments of reflection will be filled with the ‘daily grind.’

It reminds me of Aristotle. He was an ancient philosopher, prolific writer, and polymath, who in 350 B.C. postulated that space is a void, a region of space containing no substance, such that if something were to move in the void, it would move to infinity, yet all things around it would immediately fill the void before it could actually form. Wow! What a philosophical thought so long ago and yet, so relevant today. Simply put, there’s never a void as it’ll always be filled with something. This mirrors our realities in the work world, whereby our free time is immediately filled with the mindless crap of others. We have to be vigilant in protecting our time.

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival


So how do we overcome this daily ‘time grab.’ It starts with simple steps. As I plan my time for the weeks ahead, for example, I use my online calendar to “book” my time, whether I have things planned or not. I book before and after lunch to stop people from encroaching on my eating, workout, and thinking time. Then I book the end of the day to allow me time to leave work at a decent and predicable time. When these time moochers try and book a meeting, it will be in the time slots that I’ve permitted them to use. This eliminates them dictating to me when I should be available to them.

Time is a funny thing. We’re always trying to increase the things we do in the limited time we have. We’re trying to increase the time we have to do the things we want. And, we’re trying to stop wasting our time on things that waste our time. The challenge is that we need to discern between being active and being productive with our time. We’re always active at work, but seldom are we productive. The panacea to time trading, for example, is doing less so you can do more; more of the things that matter to you. Interesting concept: less for more. This is important because when you do less you do what you ‘need’ to do. In turn, this allows you to do more of the things that matter most.

So what should we do with time? We should seek simplicity and importance in life; that is, the enjoyment of experiences, not material and consumable things. Seek out time trading to gain one day, one month, or one year to fulfill your inner leanings. Life is full of results, not failures. Keep trying to change your behaviour to take control of your time, which is the effect, instead of dealing with the cause. With this you’ll discover that the time you have is gone the second you use it, so use it wisely.

Are you using your time wisely?

Feel free to share your answer in the comments.

Learning to live life breaks

When you take the time to look around, you begin to realize that work consumes an inordinate amount of your life and always infringes on your personal time. After letting work consume my life for far too long, I soon discovered and embraced the life of a time trader. Becoming a time trader is to trade that ‘work’ and wasted time into ‘value’ time for you through life breaks. You can reframe your perceptions of success, liberate yourself from the daily grind, escape the workplace, and integrate key relationships into your life.

While you are no doubt familiar with a day trader–a person who stands by monitoring the markets and leveraging the daily volatility to make quick short-term profits. A time trader is a person who becomes a master at pulling the levers of life to dream and trade themselves to a more rewarding life, one full of experiences, relationships, and no regrets.

Finding the right balance to work and live can be daunting for the best of us. To live life as you want, you need to see life as it is. Understand it, learn from it, then change it. Time trading is a blueprint to live life more fruitfully. Each of us have the levers of life at our disposal to get the life we want. The levers of life are:

Time: We only have so much time available to live. The key is to find the right balance in life.

Flexibility: Reframing your life will allow you to become more flexible in attaining your dreams.

Money: We need to diversify our income sources and establish, where possible, automated sources of cash.

Time trading allows you to have what every human being wants–time to live life, real time to live, not a nine to five straightjacket, but time.

How can I time trade when I’m stuck working in a nine to five life? I thought the same until I realized the power inherent in the levers of life. They’re there for all of us to use, just like the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. If we were inhaling smog-filled air, our natural instinct would be to find fresh air. If we were faced with polluted water, we’d seek clean water, yet when faced with a bad working environment, boring career, or an unsettling relationship, we remain. We forget that we have these levers of life in front of us that we can pull at any time. We just need to find the courage within ourselves to act on them.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

– Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer

Time trading is a philosophy that you can leverage to optimize opportunities that come your way. Change your lens and you change the outcome. We don’t need to let the work life trap us; rather, we can leverage all the opportunities that are within it to our advantage.

A life break can be as short as one day or as long as you want to make it. The key with a life break is to foster a relationship with yourself and what’s important in your life. A life break allows you to experience life as it’s happening, rather than deferring your ability to experience it to those long-awaited retirement years that seem ever more far away, especially as economic fluctuations reverberate year after year.

When you time trade to negotiate a life break, you don’t need to use it to travel; rather, it can be used to realize whatever your dream is. If your dream is to write a book, then take life breaks to garner inspiration and energy to realize it. A life break is what you want to make of it. How you use your time is entirely up to you. The important thing is that you take time back in your life to live.

I hope you take that first step. Are you?

Feel free to share your answer in the comments.