Categorized | HR Strategies, Organization

You Need to Focus – Or Do You? The Debate About Multi-tasking

The Internet, mobile phones, smart phones…they’re all making us less focused.  We can do more stuff, but less at the same time.  We need more focus.   But how important is focus really?  Don’t we live in a society that asks us (and rewards us) to do more with less time.  It turns out that there really is no right answer.  It’s really just a matter of personality and job function.

If you feel like you’re not focused enough, or that you can’t accomplish what you want out of your job because you’re pulled in too many directions, then you may need hunker down, organize, and get some process.  But there may be some benefits to the chaotic approach you have to your work.

From Derek Thompson’s article in The Atlantic:

If multitasking is a myth, it might come as a surprise that some people are good at it. It turns out that people who multitask — or rapid-fire-single-task — less are better at firing the next arrow of attention at a new task. A famous media multitasking study found that “heavy” multitaskers are more susceptible to distractions and therefore worse at task-switching effectively. This makes sense if you consider multitasking to be “the art of paying attention.” Heavy multitaskers roll out the welcome mat for every new distraction. Of course they can’t pay attention to things. Attention isn’t their intent.

In other words, if you’re looking for focus, then you should find it.  If you don’t find that sort of thing useful — ditch it and multi-task away.

But in The 8 Habits of Highly Productive People, from the Personal Excellence Blog, there is a lot of advice on focus and automation.

…let’s say Peter types very fast and can reply 1000 emails a day. That doesn’t make him/her productive, because there’s little output (product) to speak of (unless the emails contribute to tangible, high impact outcomes). However, if John completes just one task in a day that has more impact than the 1000 emails put together, then he’s more productive than Peter is.

So there are really two parts of this conversation.  One is doing the work the way you want to do it and the other  is about defining your work and deciding what adds value.  It’s an important distinction because if you get up everyday and are productive at a job that really has no value…then it won’t be a job for long.

Success is often elusive because it can be defined subjectively.  If you’re successful in your job but feel under recognized, then you need to ask if there is a perception problem or a definition of success problem.  So productivity really has to be defined as producing value efficiently.  If you can do (or need to do) 1000 things at once and be successful, there’s your path.  If you not, then maybe you need some focus.

Read the full articles here:

If Multitasking Is Impossible, Why Are Some People So Good at It?

The 8 Habits of Highly Productive People

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Jeremy Dixon

By Jeremy Dixon

Jeremy Dixon, PHR is Vice President of the Florida Division of A1 Temps, a Nesco Resource Company. He has 22 years of experience in the staffing industry and has served as President of HR Tampa, the local affiliate chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management.

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