2006: Issue 16
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.
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.
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.
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