When I was in my undergraduate studies, I realized that there were two types of learning. There were those who were naturally brilliant and could play during the semester, “cramming” or studying only before exams; they did quite well. Then, there were those of us who required continuous study throughout the year in addition to focused study at the end, before exams. I used to call the latter type of learning “seat power.” They, likewise, did quite well; they just required more effort.
Daniel Goleman (author of the best-selling Emotional Intelligence) has written a new book entitled Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Goleman’s “focus” is the equivalent of my “seat power.” In other words, when you remain in your seat, focused on the task in front of you, you are more likely to succeed in accomplishing that particular goal or task then you would otherwise be.
His premise is that our ability to block out the massive digital distractions is reduced by the “cognitive exhaustion” those distractions cause. Now I know why I am fatigued when I all-too- frequently review the hundreds of email (most of which have to be deleted) that enter into my system on a daily basis.
In other words, we must focus our energies, ignore the many digital images that distract us, and complete one task at a time. This reminds me of an earlier blog post I wrote concerning multitasking. The reality is that we cannot multitask although we do many things sequentially. When we allow ourselves to “multitask” (or think we are), we are allowing ourselves to be digitally distracted and cognitively exhausted.
It is my intent to focus more specifically on the tasks at hand, in line with my priorities list, without so much reference to email and other digital distractions; by taking greater control of myself, I look forward to accomplishing more – being more successful – with less fatigue.
In a recent USA Today article, texting and music listening while driving and walking are leading to an increase in the death of pedestrians. People are still talking on the phone and texting while driving, despite the statistics that prove it can be deadly and despite it being against the law.
But now, we have new statistics that show the same result -- injury and death -- arises from just walking and texting or listening to music and being in "another zone." All of which confirms that multi-tasking is a misnomer. We can do one thing at a time, not many different things at the same time.
Those who reach the pinnacle of success are able to do many things ... but focus on one thing at a time. There just ain't no such thing as multi-tasking.