Thursday, May 03, 2012

One Thing At A Time

People can really only do one thing at a time.

This thought has been more active over the last week or so due to work, where not only I but everyone I seem to come in contact with seems to have multiple things going on at one time.  The odd reality - at least in my own life - is that I seem to get less and less done, the more and more I get assigned.

Because most things take time - uninterrupted, focused time.  Reading, evaluating, thinking, writing, even doing - these are the products of focus and attention on one subject.  Not delving in fully, not being able to give the needed attention due to interruptions or multiple tasks, means that things will get done poorly - or not at all.

Ironically, this is not how business seems to run.  "Multi-tasking" is the order of the day and (apparently) the road to success. 

But what I've noticed is that most "successful" multi-taskers are not really multi-tasking at all - instead, they're delegators, delegating the tasks to others to complete.  If the suggestion that you as a multi-task drive by victim are not able to complete your tasks is made, the reminder is that really the fault is yours, because you need to "follow up" - repeatedly, like a bull dog.  And having too many tasks to do and have to multi-task too often feels like skating over ice that's a bit too thin:  give it long enough, and into the water you will plunge.

To suggest that more work than can be done in an 8 or even 10 hour day does not represent so much an inability to multi-task as it does unreasonable expectations is to court heresy.  The suggester of such things will be seen not as someone willing to speak the truth but rather as a difficult individual who (who knows?) may be lazy of their own accord.

Interestingly, most of those who become recognized or good at whatever they do - be it art or writing or farming - do so because they've focused and paid the time.  Sure, Leonardo da Vincis and Miyamoto Musashis are out there, but they're the minority.  Most of us do and succeed by finishing one thing, then moving to the next, focusing attention on a small number of tasks over a long period of time.

It's not that I realize this fact about myself - it's the coming to acceptance of the fact and getting others to acknowledge it that is the challenge.  But better the challenge and the clear eyed realism than the constant sense of not quite doing enough - when it could never be done.

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