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2006: Issue 16

Frenzied Focus

It seems that the most common questions in interviews these days involve the ability of the applicant to multi-task.  Perhaps you have asked them, or perhaps you have been working on your own ability to multi-task, or in your management role, you have identified one of the core competencies of a position to be the ability to multi-task.  The more we can do at the same time, the better....so we think. 

Truth be told, a person’s ability to multi-task well may actually be a reason not to hire more than a reason to hire.  Your well honed ability to multi-task may also be the reason you are missing deadlines, forgetting things or finding the day is over and your to-do list is longer than when you started.  And yet, we continue to place value on this ability.

In actuality the frenzied focus created by multi-tasking dilutes our ability to do things well, to accomplish our goals, and to realize our brain’s potential.  The real power is in our ability to focus, and the scientist’s are proving it.  The findings of one study conclude that multi-tasking lowers your functioning IQ more than smoking two joints of marijuana.  (We found that one particularly intriguing.)   Having determined our brain is a quantum environment, other researchers are applying theories of quantum physics to the brain, with such principles as the Quantum Zeno Effect (QZE) which states “that the mental act of focusing attention stabilizes the associated brain circuits.  Concentrating attention on your mental experience, whether a thought, an insight, ….or a fear, maintains the brain state arising in association with that experience.”   

Now I am still more than a little fuzzy on this QZE thing, but I do get that focus is power for I’ve experienced and seen it in action many times.  You have too, just as you have seen in action many times the diluting effect of multi-tasking. 

Multi-tasking may have its place, but it is not the panacea many believe. I often wonder how much rework is related to multi-tasking, and the frenzied focus that accompanies it.  Think about the role of focus when watching athletes perform, or an actor in his Oscar winning performance, or your child when playing the piano, and you will see how the ability to focus is often the distinguishing factor between a very good and great performance. 

For years, I thrived on multi-tasking.  Handling one interruption after another; checking email while talking on the phone; attending meetings and writing my to-do list while listening – believing that doing so was the only way to get everything done. When I started this coaching gig, I brought those habits with me.

Certainly I could check email and talk to the client at the same time.  Or drive and talk....no big deal.  Fortunately, I had a few clients who got my attention, some subtly, while others more overtly.  I realized I was asking them to repeat what they had just said, or stumbling over a question, or fumbling to get the conversation back on track. 

I decided I better regroup if I wanted to succeed in this new career so I worked to develop the skill of focus.   I can tell you it wasn’t easy, but the results are well worth it.  I bring maximum value to my client only if I am fully present in our conversation.  If I have all my senses focused on the conversation, and my brain clear of other distractions, I can fully hear what she is saying, and the conversation flows, moving her forward, toward her goals. 

Now I wonder, how much more effective of a leader I would have been had I realized the power of focus. 

Frenzied focus or laser focus – which will you bet on to get the best result? Challenge your brain, and resist the tendency to do several things at once or jump from one thing to another.  Practice focus.  You might be amazed at the improvement in the quality of your work and the actual time it takes to complete it. 

Founded in 2003 and based in Roanoke, Virginia, Extra Ordinary Living works with individuals, organizations and teams to identify possibilities, create opportunities, remove obstacles and through deliberate action, optimize results.

Usually the first question we are asked, is why Tiberius? Our trivia friends can often identify the references……yes, Tiberius was the 2nd Roman emperor, and yes, Tiberius is the middle name of James T. Kirk from Star Trek. One of our life mottos and business principles is “to learn from the past, look to the future while living in the present.” Thus, Extra Ordinary Living.

As Professional Coaches, we are trained to listen, to observe and to customize our approach to our clients needs.  We provide tools, support, structure and accountability to help our clients unleash their full potential and optimize results.  The best thing about coaching is it is all about you – the client, and what you want.  We may share our opinions and give you advice, but it is up to you to pick and choose what you want to accept.  We suspend judgment and will support you in your decisions. 

As Professional Speakers, our messages are inspirational while imparting useful, practical and memorable information in a fun and dynamic way to help our audiences live  extra ordinary lives.  

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
– Joseph Campbell

Janet Crawford, MHA, MBA
Professional Certified Coach

A publication of Extra Ordinary Living,  Extra Ordinary Living is written for aspiring individuals striving to make a difference, and wanting to explore, experience and excel in all aspects of their life.

“Only when your consciousness is totally focused on the moment you are in can you receive whatever gift, lesson, or delight that moment has to offer."
– Barbara De Angelis

"The ability to focus attention on important things is a defining characteristic of intelligence."
– Robert J. Shiller


On September 26, Janet will be presenting at the VANHA Annual conference, It’s a Brain Thing: Can We Really Do More with Less?