Monthly Archives: November 2012

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.

Goals Will Guide Us

Goals are quite a powerful tool that we have to guide and excite our inner being. Without goals our lives would seem empty and without purpose. Yes, we all have goals. Some may not realize it, but they set goals every day. It can be as mundane as finishing to cut the grass before the end of the day to saving for retirement. It’s just that sometimes the goals are overshadowed by the noise of life.

It’s possible to experience amazing things when you leverage goals as a guiding principle in your life. There’s no way I would’ve ventured to live in a foreign country for two years if I didn’t set some challenging goals. I quit a good paying and stable job, sold all my belongings, said good-bye to my family and friends then left to Ecuador. I didn’t know the language, had never been more than a few hours away from home, and didn’t even have the skills to do the job, but I had a goal. My inner being was so excited by this goal that this energy alone allowed me to overcome the intensity of fear that lingered in my mind. The mere thought of achieving something of this magnitude helped inspire and drive me toward reaching it.

Taking the time to understand goals and your motivation behind them will help you reach your potentiality in life. Goals are not hollow gestures, you need to identify what they are, then add substance to them. First and foremost is to determine the complexity of the goals. Are they really quite easy or will they require some effort on your part? Will they take a short time to achieve, or will they take a long time to achieve? Part of defining a goal is to understand the time and energy it will take to achieve it. If we don’t take the time to do this simple step, we’ll fail in doing what we need to do to, not only motivate ourselves, but to excite our inner being to attain it.

The way we think about our goals helps us understand our senses of passion, commitment, accountability, and the like. The way we understand will help us create real value from our goals and allow us to focus on what is truly meaningful to us. It gives us the ability to filter the noise, crisis, complexity, and distractions all around us.

You can’t reach a goal unless you’ve dreamed it first.

Once we commit and understand our goals we can take effective approaches to take action. The challenge is our approach. There’s rarely a linear direction to reach our goals because we’ll encounter challenges and diversions along the way. The important point is that we need to have confidence and strength in our approach. The last thing you want is to expend a lot of action with no meaning.

You need to focus these actions to embrace a goal. This will allow you to commit to them, manage your understanding to maintain momentum toward the achievement of your goal, and to adjust your approach in the pursuit of your goals. The ability for you to become consciously aware of these aspects will help you achieve your goals and ultimately fulfillment in your life. Soon you’ll realize that the goal isn’t really the destination, rather a way of life. Keep in mind your success isn’t following someone else’s dream, goals, or achievements; it’s you learning to love what you love and not worrying about how people will see you. It’s all about how you see yourself. This is the power of goals in your life; you only need to garner the courage to seek them out.

Are you ready to set and achieve your goals?

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

Aristotle

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.