Over the past few weeks, one idea has surfaced again and again through podcasts, books, and articles I’ve read:
Multi-tasking (or having multiple priorities) is the key to failure. To succeed, you must identify one thing that takes precedence and accept mediocrity at everything else, so the prevailing wisdom goes.
This message has come up several times over the past few weeks from reading The ONE Thing by Gary Keller to a discussion with Angel List founder Naval Ravikant on the Spartan Up! podcast to an interview I listened to with Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism.
I think it’s worth separating out what I see as two different types of multi-tasking:
Trying to do two different tasks at the same moment in time (like trying to watch TV and also listen to your friend tell a story).
The multi-tasking we all do on a daily basis as we juggle the various roles we all play (team member, writer, husband, mother, father, etc).
It’s well documented that the former variation doesn’t work. You’ll get a much better return on investment by single-tasking – devoting all of your energy to one task at a time. Read Deep Work if you’re not convinced.
The second variation – juggling the many roles we all play on a daily basis – is where I tend to disagree with the prevailing wisdom.
I’ve been mulling this over in my head recently because it hits close to home. With a new baby in the house, I’m trying to be the best Dad possible. That and being an awesome husband are certainly a top priority. I’m also dedicated to excelling in my professional career at Automattic and building an awesome community at CrossFit Undeniable. That’s four priorities…am I doomed to mediocrity?
I don’t think so. Well, at least I hope not!
I believe it’s totally possible to be an awesome dad/husband, excel professionally, and have a side passion. We all have different roles we juggle – many at the same time.
When I think about how to be successful at this juggling act, three key pieces stick out.
First, segmented attention is the enemy.
The people we live with and work with on a daily basis deserve our full attention. When we give people segmented attention, piecemeal time, switching back and forth, the switching cost is higher than just the time involved. We end up damaging relationships.
– The ONE Thing
When you’re at work, be at work. When you’re at home, be at home. Issues arise when we don’t have clear boundaries between the two, and we live in a constant gray area.
Second, understand that balance is not the goal.
A lot of fuss is made over the topic of work/life balance. The phrase creates the mental model of a teeter totter tipping too far towards one side or the other.
In order to excel in an area of your life (professional, personal, etc), you have to dedicate energy to it – that’s a fact. Your energy is also a finite resource meaning that giving more to one area necessitates giving less to another. Work/life balance insinuates that every area of your life has to have an equal devotion of energy at all times, which is impossible.
Instead, understand that success ultimately requires extremes. There will be days when you have to devote most of your energy to the professional arena. On your vacation, devote all of your energy towards your family. That’s balance – juggling the extremes.
Third, understand that not everything matters equally.
Not everything matters equally, and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most. Yet that is exactly how most play it on a daily basis.
– The ONE Thing
This third piece is even more relevant as I’m reading through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. AUTHOR introduces this concept of “Quadrant II Thinking.” If we plot out tasks that are Urgent vs. Not Urgent and Important vs. Not Important, we get the following:
We spend far too much of our effort on Quadrants I, III, and IV – stuff that we should either plan around or avoid at all costs. Quadrant II is the stuff that really matters, the stuff that makes a difference and pushes us forward in the areas we value.
Identify the actions that push you forward and ignore everything else.
Perhaps we’re splitting hairs with this idea of juggling various roles successfully. When someone says you must devote all of your energy to running a company if you want to do it successfully, maybe they mean you can still be an awesome partner/parent, but you must devote all of your “professional” energy to the company. I’m not so sure though.
This “one priority at the expense of others” idea has popped up again and again. I just don’t think it jives with how we live our lives. Life is inherently complex, and we all play a multitude of roles. With the right approach, I’m convinced that it’s completely possible to excel in all of them without going crazy.
In order to get anything done, we must start somewhere. And so, we start with the necessities of life. One of the first steps of a decent, adult life is to get a job. With a job, you can then pay for the first few necessities in life: a roof over your head, food on your table, clothes on your back.
Once we have this sorted out, we come into the next stage of life. We want to create a lifestyle. We want more out of life, now that the bare necessities are taken care of. We want a nice home, a car, hobbies to keep us occupied, and people that we may call friends. Now, we will not only do what’s necessary, but what is possible. Because we managed the first step of life so well, we know we can keep going. Why stop at the necessities when you can also have niceties?
Suddenly, you’ve built yourself a lifestyle – hopefully, one thatyou enjoy. And still, you have seen what you can do, so you probably want to keep going.
This is, for most of us, somewhat of a natural process of life. But it is also a process to take inspiration from. You see, if you have a dream or a goal that you wish to pursue that might seem a bit out of your league, it will do you well to remember the stages you may have gone through in the past. Remember all the work you’ve taken on and actually succeeded with. Look around yourself and realize that there is a reason that you actually have more than enough.
So let this inspire you to reach and climb even higher. Because why should you stop halfway? Just take it one step at a time, and soon you’ll find yourself doing what you once thought impossible.
Overcoming our obstacles, having faith in ourselves during the most trying of times, and embarking down new paths – these three challenges and many more can be quite daunting at first glance.
Patience can be a tough quality to possess. Many of us find ourselves wanting – and maybe even expecting – positive changes to arrive at a quick pace. The truth is, however, that most good things in life take time.
When we begin down the path to progress and success, things often appear – and prove to be – difficult. Our plans maygo sideways and we may even fall behind when we feel we should be making strides forward instead. It is essential that we all remember that things take both time and practice – and that while having patience can be frustrating, it’s well worth the wait if, in the end, our lives are changed for the better.
We must have patience. We must have faith in our ability to stay strong through even the most turbulent of storms. Above all, we must put in all the effort we can muster to show our fears and obstacles who’s boss!
The longer we stall action on a specific idea or task, the harder it becomes to get started. And if that something is tied to a time-specific deadline, with each passing day, those feelings of stress and anxiety begin to build. Action, therefore, is the only release for those worry filled emotions.
Today, take a step of action on something you’ve been putting off. Force yourself forward.
Just a small step of progress toward something you’ve been delaying guarantees for you a day of success. If you’vebecome stagnant, feeling stuck, it becomes a momentum and confidence builder. Both a mental and physical win you can begin to build upon.
So let today be a day to get moving again, start small if you must, but most importantly, just start.
The act of waiting until we discover that “perfect moment” in which to begin taking action on a goal or dream will always be illusionary. There will never be a “perfect moment” – You must simply just begin.
The mindset of “waiting until” accomplishes nothing more for us than a way to validate and rationalize our procrastination, and justify our inactions – it is fuel for our own excuses.
Yes, it’s important to plan. It’s important to have clarity in what you desire, to have a strategy to help get yourself to where you want to go, but know that it all means nothing until action is taken.
If you find yourself stuck in a mode of procrastination, of indecision, remind yourself thattaking action, any action, is always the most valuable thing you can do. Why? For the feedback. For taking action, even if it results in failure, produces valuable feedback. Feedback that you can use to adjust, adapt, and grow.
The perfect moment is something you create. Find the discipline within yourself to go get after it. Your dreams, your goals, they are waiting for your actions to make them real. Let’s go create!
Do you struggle with over analysis? Do you agonize over seemingly simple decisions because you are afraid to make the “wrong” choice?
Being able to properly analyze the future possibilities, probabilities, and outcomes of our choices definitely has its advantages; but we must be careful not to let ourselves get so lost in analysis that we continually stall action. For action is the only way to get proper feedback and achieve growth.
Yes, you might fail, you might make a mistake or two. You might not see the results you were hoping for right away – so what?
It’s natural towant to do everything right the first time. It’s natural to always want to know the next step before taking the first. But so often the next step only truly becomes clear once we have taken that first. Trust in yourself; in your capacity to learn, to adjust, to overcome, to change.
Life is about growth, about taking a chance. And failure? Well, failure is so often the greatest teacher. If you’ll let it. Don’t fear it. Learn from it. Use it.
Today we would like to touch one of the most complicated subjects: Life…
What is Life?
Life is a mystery and to understand it we need to create a pathway that it easier to walk through the woods. Sometimes people are so complicated that they don’t understand the meaning of life. Humans search for materialistic and physical pleasures, and the just a little is never enough.…