I was always taught that multitasking was not only a good practice, but that it was essential to be successful. As a Vice President of Sales, I became really good at multitasking. I could literally keep a dozen or so balls in the air, hundreds of projects moving forward with my staff, move from topic 1 to 57 in a heartbeat, and I seldom if ever dropped a ball or missed a date. Did I do everything perfectly or as well as it could have been done? No, but I truly believed that simply getting it done mattered more than doing it perfectly. I was a consummate multitasker – and I was very good at it!
In life, things change and we are presented with opportunities to reassess. A good friend of my late Father’s gave me a book after we had spent some time together and got to know each other pretty well. The book arrived in my mailbox accompanied by a personal note that encouraged me to both read and incorporate the principles contained within.
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (ISBN:1885167776) by Gary Keller (founder of Keller Williams Realty) and Jay Papasan. Every once in a while we read something that “rocks our boat,” but this book literally shook my foundation. The book’s basic premise questioned everything that I had been taught, everything that I had learned, and everything that I was very good at. The pages screamed that multitasking was not only wrong, but this very practice that I was so skilled at was holding me back from being exceptional! WOW – what a wake-up call!
The ONE Thing teaches you to look at your “To Do List” and choose the “ONE” thing that is actually the most important, (you get to determine whatever reasoning you have for that decision based upon a multitude of factors), and then do it. NOW! All you have to do is the ONE thing and once it is done, decide what your new ONE thing is, and do it next. I must admit that I have 30+ years of Day-Timers on my book shelf and that someday someone may look to see who I called, met with, or view the tasks I completed each and every day of my career, but I doubt it.
Actions vs Accomplishments:
Do actions get us to where we need to go or is it finishing important “hard-to-do” tasks that will make a difference and create accomplishment? How many times have we added to our “To-Do-List” after we have “done it” just so we could add a check-mark and say it’s done? I have. We all want to feel like we are moving forward or getting something done, but what we are really doing is merely “marching in place” by completing non-essential tasks. Does this move us toward our goals?
I am a recovering “To-Do-List-Oholic.” Yes, I still do a To-Do-List every day, but now I view it as a list of opportunities where I can spend my time and not as a list of everything that must get done. It is a list of possibilities, not a measuring stick. Now I ask myself, “What is the ONE thing” that needs to be done RIGHT NOW?” Then I tackle that task with full and complete focus and see it to completion. The ONE thing isn’t always urgent or even the most important for my company’s success, (it is impossible to make that very important call to Asia if it is 3 AM their time), but it is the ONE thing at that time, in that place, that I determine to matter most and can be accomplished – RIGHT NOW!
We have all learned to multitask and have embraced this practice as a successful approach to accomplishing more. However, I recommend that you take a step back, read “The ONE Thing” and redirect your focus on the truly important tasks vs. the ones you just check off your list. Allow yourself to concentrate on what will make a difference.