I'm sure you have all heard the saying from your female friends referring to the men in their life that they can’t do more than one thing at a time. And we, as women all nod our head in agreement, smug in the knowledge that we kick arse due to our ability to multi-task. Right?
I'm here to tell you that multitasking is not all that – in fact I have come to realise that multitasking can put many people including me into mayhem.
For many years I've prided myself on the fact that I am one of the best multitaskers on this planet. My innate sense to jump from one task to another is probably the closest I will ever get to superhero status (I'm still working on my lasso skills for any Wonder Woman fans out there). People would watch and comment in awe, which was, quite frankly, pretty good for the ego.
Until...one of my favourite leaders in my career to date, said to me, “ Giovanna…this isn't questioning you about your ability to get the work done. You never let me down. But could you produce better results and also save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress if you slowed down a little and didn’t try to do it all and more so all at once.”
I was pretty perplexed by this at the time. I thought I gave off a calm demeanor as my little duck legs swam fiercely underneath. But I guess that was her point.
So I reflected on it for quite some time, tried to implement a new process whereby each night I would put a post it note up on my monitor with the three tasks I must get through the next day.
This is good in theory right….but what happens when a whole bunch of ‘noise’ comes in that is apparently, much more critical or you start getting distracted by bright shiny lights around you. What happens? You start trying to get in on all the action, you overload yourself and start multitasking to keep up. Invariably something suffers. And most of the time it’s the three important tasks that have been sitting like a monkey on your back that keep getting pushed or not delivered on well. And if it’s not the work at hand, it’s your health as you keep pushing and pushing to do more and do more all at once!
So about a year ago, after many years of trying to maintain my superhero status, I stopped and focused.... truly focused.
It’s even more important now that I run my own business consultancy and professional mentoring programs, my mind has to be focused on one client at a time.
When I'm not face to face with the client (and you can read my post on a simple technique on staying completely focused in meetings), I work in sprints or block time, whereby I have dedicated time allocated including own business administration and business development. Friday morning for example is all about finance – and ensuring my business is healthy and running as efficiently as possible. If I miss this time, the monkey on my back gets heavier and heavier as does the spring in my step and my clear, productive mind gets clouded with the noise all because I lost focus.
Some top tips that you can take away include:
1. If you are working on a project that needs your attention (e.g. finance, strategy, planning, brainstorming), close your emails – they will distract you. And honestly if people email you, it’s not urgent. We have phones for that.
2. In meetings, to maximise the time, minimise the distraction, implement a no mobile phone policy. I was so pleased last Thursday at one of our Sparrows United events, when the speaker asked the guests to bring up their favourite photo on their phone, every person in that room had to reach into their bag or pocket for their phone. How refreshing to see such an engaged audience.
3. If you're tired, and you can’t focus, take a nap or a walk to refresh. I know the napping in particular sounds crazy right? But on that really hot day in Sydney this summer, as I tried to work through a significant transformation strategic plan for a client, my focus was not there because I was so tired from the heat so I found myself starring at the screen for quite some time. Until, I started working in sprints. 45 minutes on and then 20 minutes rest (it was way to hot to walk that day) and no checking emails, taking calls, or being distracted in general. Pure focus on the job at hand and keeping my body and mind at its optimum performance. The outcome…one of my best pieces of work to date.