I decided to spend a day noticing how often I did more than one thing at a time.  Yes, I know women are apparently the multi-tasking champions and I was astounded at how seldom I did focus solely on the task at hand.  A quick ring around confirmed that I am not the only one and it is not gender biased.

Are you guilty of any of these:

  • breakfast with the paper and your phone,
  • lunch with friends or colleagues and your phone,
  • making lists or solving problems in your head while you shower,
  • drafting an email, and social media alerts interrupting your thoughts,
  • running with music.

The thing is, there are times when we can be more efficient by multi-tasking… but at what cost – are we being effective?

Efficiency means to me – getting stuff done – as much as possible in the least amount of time within an acceptable risk range.

Effectiveness on the other hand means getting the right stuff done with an enquiring mindset – being innovative, thoughtful and intentional and aware of the bigger picture.

Here are more examples:

  • driving and listening to an audio book,
  • listening to an on-line training program and checking and replying to emails,
  • talking to a friend or family member on the phone while answering emails, cleaning, doing a crossword, making dinner
  • reading a book with music or TV on in the background,
  • talking to someone while looking for the next person to talk to

There are some tasks where efficiency works and multi-tasking is acceptable.

And there are other tasks, which compete for our attention, and as a consequence maybe underdone and deserving of more.

Multi-tasking by its very nature means that our focus is scattered, that we are robbing one task of our full attention to get something else done.

There is an opportunity cost here – the cost of not giving a task our full and unbridled attention.  It seems to me that we no longer consider this cost, we have accepted multi-tasking is the way to do things in the crazy frantic world we live in.

The list is never ending:

  • trying to solve a challenge prior to sleeping so your subconscious can work on it while you sleep – yes sleeping isn’t even safe!
  • checking emails and social media while on the toilet! (Yes, that is really gross!)
  • thinking, writing, or talking and thinking about something else (known as mind chatter)
  • sitting at meetings and answering emails or texts (should you be there at all?)

There are some tasks which I think are worthy of 100% of our attention – reading, thinking, strategizing, sleeping, exercising.  And some that are effective companions.

What do you think? Can you relate to any of these examples?    

What requires 100% attention?

Leave a comment – I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Some Homework:

Do an audit – spend a day noticing what you do – when do you multi-task and when do you focus entirely on the job at hand? And what should change?

Create your own behavioural rules – when will you apply 100% attention.

Be accountable – when you break your rules, what are the consequences?  A donation to a charity of choice perhaps?

I’d love to hear which tasks you have decided must be given 100% attention.


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