“You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.”
― Gary Keller
I’ve never been one for multitasking, in fact most of the time I struggle with doing one thing at a time. We’re told constantly how this is the key to achieving maximum productivity, but I don’t buy it. How can dividing your attention between things possibly help improve either task?
I think it comes down to time, and our perceived lack of it. What I would say is that if something is really worth doing, and is important to you then it really deserves your full attention. Have you ever tried having a meaningful conversation with someone while they’re looking at their phone? Looking up occasionally, giving a nod and then getting back to whatever it is that’s clearly more interesting and important than what you’re saying. It’s very annoying.
We’ve somehow convinced ourselves as a society that we are a lot busier than we actually are. “I don’t have time to take a lunch break today, so I’ll just grab a snack and eat at my desk”. “Sorry Mum, no time to talk. I’ll call you in a few days when I’ve finished this project.” We never seem to have enough time… Yet we have seen that funny cat video that’s gone viral on YouTube, and read that BuzzFeed article about the 200 most amazing things from reality TV, and caught the latest ep of Game of Thrones, and played Grand Theft Auto 5. It’s not that we don’t have enough time, but that we get pulled into all these distractions – our attention is constantly being taken by all these things that don’t matter. Next time you’re on a train, look at how many people are on their phones. How many are playing Candy Crush? My guess is quite a few. Or scrolling mindlessly through a social media feed – not really taking anything in but just endlessly scrolling.
Some of these ‘distractions’ might bring you joy, they may really add value to your life and that’s fine, but you need to ask, am I missing out on something more important? Is my attention being taken away from something else that is far more deserving of my time? The next time you feel like you’re too busy have a think about what has been taking your time away from you, and if it has really been worth it.
Find something you love, focus on it above all else, and see whether or not that brings you more joy. I bet it will.