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April 9, 2010
The Myth of Multi-Tasking

 
 
I often think of myself as a "multi-tasker". The typical multi-tasker hopes to juggle several balls at the same time. They like to think that they are efficient with their time, are more productive, and rarely get bored. 
 
Multi-taskers also rarely get things done. They begin reading books they never finish. They are more likely to be late to a meeting or an event. They might make to-do lists, but typically lose the lists within the clutter of their desk. 
 
A multi-tasker is in reality very inefficient because they get distracted so easily. They start projects only to put the projects aside to finish later. Valuable time is then lost re-starting the project (if the project is ever re-started at all).
 
Multi-tasking can work only when simple "tasks" are involved. Thinking and learning are not simple tasks. Reading a book while flying to Asia for a meeting is a good way to multi-task. Piloting the plane while updating your Facebook account is not...
 
As I was driving about town the other day, I was listening to a sports psychologist on the radio talking about the difference between elite athletes and those who are good but never seem to cross the line into greatness.
 
As he explained it, both types of players are typically very gifted and talented but the two defining differentiating factors are work ethic and preparation before the game is played and focus during the game.
 
Now this wasn’t a really a foreign idea to me but his words stuck a chord with me as I thought about his conclusions. His explanation seemed simple but right on target. The more I thought about this idea, the more reinforcing examples came into my head. 

Was it just this simple?
 
Preparation and focus are not alone. They are but two legs of the tripod. The third leg is purpose or determination. What you do...is more often than not... an outcome of why are you doing it in the first place. I’ve talked about the "Why" before so let’s explore the other two components success...

Preparation
 
My friend Tony Delellis is leaving San Diego on his bike on April 23rd to pedal across America. His journey will take him from San Diego to Cape Coral, FL - 3200 miles in the course of 38 days. (click here to learn more about his trip)
 
At 53 years old, Tony isn’t an "elite" athlete but he is an ordinary man trying to live an extraordinary life. Like many of us, he has a job that he goes to each day and a family to look after (although his kids are now all off to college, so there is a bit of extra time). He has no extraordinary skills to speak of but he does have one thing that many of us do not possess.  He is extremely passionate about riding.
 
Over the course of the last 25 years, Tony has ridden in over 50 organized "century" rides (rides of 100+ miles in a day) and 14 "double centuries" (200+ miles in a day). This doesn’t include the countless number of miles completed in preparation for the organized events. 
 
Tony just didn’t wake up one day and think to himself...today is a really nice day...I think I’ll ride to Florida...his cross-country ride has been years in the making. He has completed the training...he has chosen the equipment that he believes will be needed along the way (did I mention that he was taking along camping equipment with him?)...he has researched the best routes and weather patterns for April / May. 
 
Even with all of the preparation and hard work, it will still be a question as to whether or not he’ll make it all the way to Florida. The weather could turn bad. Injuries may occur. His equipment might fail. Preparation doesn’t prevent failure. It just helps to lower the odds against failure.

My bet is he’ll make it...
 
Focus
 
Physics teach how a convex lens can capture random rays of light and focus the energy into a single point. The intensity of this light can be thousands of times greater at this point than the random light rays. We remember this from our childhood as we used a magnifying glass to burn small holes into newspaper.
 
Scientists have also discovered that by aligning and amplifying the light before bending it through a lens, the same energy can be so great as to melt metal surfaces. This process is known as "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation". Most of the people in the world are familiar with this process by its acronym - LASER. Using the concept of alignment and amplification, the laser’s power can be infinitely greater than undirected light or thousands of times greater than ordinary focused light.  
 
Successful people use this basic principle to accomplish great things. They know that by tightly focusing their own thoughts and actions they are able to achieve great individual results. However, the super-successful understand that by employing a team, in a highly coordinated and focused effort can magnify the results thousands of times. The sum of any one individual contribution is greater than that of any one person’s contribution.

One plus one equals three (or four or five).

That’s a answer multi-taskers never quite grasp...but then again...they’ve already fogotten the question...

Thank you very much for your continued support of OptiFuse as we try to focus our attention on creating solutions.


Jim Kalb
President
OptiFuse
jimk@optifuse.com
 
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