Living on Purpose: Focus on one thing at a time
Vail CO, Colorado
Meri reviewed the Action Steps from our last session and had made significant progress on her fitness goals and had balanced her checkbook, something she had avoided for several months. She seemed proud of her accomplishments and then paused as she came to the last item ” the issue of multi-tasking.
“I can fold laundry, talk on the phone, and cook dinner all at the same time,” Meri had shared with me in our last session. “There is just too much to do and too little time.”
Noticing a bit of pride in her voice, I said, “It sounds like this works well for you.”
“The only problem is that multi-tasking is impacting me at work … in a negative way.”
Meri added, “Things I normally do with precision have been slipping. My reports are finished on time, but have recently included errors ” some that could have been costly had they not been noticed.”
Her assignment last week was to notice when multi-tasking happened and what impacts it had. Meri reluctantly pulled out a piece of paper that contained notes of her multi-tasking observances.
As she began reviewing the list, Meri reached into her purse and pulled out a piece of gum while she talked. She mindlessly checked her cell phone to see if anyone had called and then turned it off, all while conversing with me, pausing only once or twice as her mind switched gears between tasks.
“How many times did you catch yourself multi-tasking this week?” I asked.
“I’m embarrassed to say,” Meri said sheepishly. “I do it all of the time.”
“When did you find yourself multi-tasking at work and what were the results?” I asked.
“Yesterday I was on the phone with one of my employees who was reviewing our goals for an upcoming project. At the same time, I was checking my e-mail and eating my lunch. When he asked for feedback, I had to ask him to repeat it because I wasn’t listening.”
“What was the result?” I asked.
“It actually took longer because he had to go over everything twice,” she said.
“Give me another example,” I said.
“I was listening to a presentation and my mind began to drift. I opened my calendar to check my upcoming deadlines. One task was to send a memo about a meeting next week. As I began to make some notes, the presenter asked me a question. I tried to replay what was said, but I wasn’t listening and had to ask her to repeat the question. I felt like a fool.”
We went through two more examples and each time Meri explained the consequences of multi-tasking.
“From this exercise, what did you discover?” I asked.
Meri said, “Yesterday I was frustrated because my computer was working so slowly.
Later as I closed down my computer, I realized I had eight files minimized, probably a result of multi-tasking. The computer was so slow because I had too many programs running in the background and it couldn’t complete any one task efficiently.”
She added, “I’m like my computer. When I multi-task, I think I’ll get more done. What I found out this week is that things actually take longer or I’m embarrassed because I’m not paying attention.”
“What will you do this week to help with multi-tasking?” I asked.
“If my life is like a computer, “Meri said, “I will keep only one program open. I will consciously finish one task and close out the program before I begin another. Next time we meet, I’ll let you know how it goes. My guess is that I’ll get more done and be less scattered.”
As she stood up, she simultaneously looked at her watch, put on her jacket, and turned on her phone, checking for missed calls. She stopped, realizing that she was multi-tasking again. She looked me straight in the eye, thanked me and said goodbye.
Coaching Challenge: Make a list of how often and when you do more than one thing at a time. What are you intentions with multi-tasking? What are the effects?
Consciously focus on one thing at a time and note how you feel. What are the results? Write down the word “focus” and put it on your computer to remind you to only do one thing at a time.
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Sheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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