Plate Too Full? Multi-tasking won’t help.


At a certain point, it’s no longer about better multi-tasking ( cf.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_multitasking  cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switching_barriers ), better time management or  better organization… it isn’t even about better caffeine levels.

It’s about taking things off the plate… especially those things (and yes, those relationships) which create clutter and noise, which generate highly distracting, unimportant busy work.

For those of us who get some enjoyment from the work itself — the craft that goes into the details — it can be hard sometimes to discern which things need to get dropped.  However, it’s critical that we be in control of the “dropping” process and decide what we want to keep on our plate. Sure, we’ll get lucky sometimes… sometimes, as our plates fill up, the things we don’t want will naturally fall off of it. However, we all know the feeling of having let something important slide because we were caught up in a salient triviality. So do yourself a favor and focus on…

  • the people and things that matter most, based on your values and responsibilities
  • the activities that build your equity, including your intellectual capital
  • the people that will stand with you for the long term
  • that which brings you joy

The month of May was very productive and enjoyable for me as I connected with many great people — including those people who really matter to me — and did some good work that I’m proud of. In fact, looking back over the last 30 days, it’s fair to say that I reached some new “personal bests” for performance… and had some great fun in the process.  However, there were a few very important things and at least one profoundly enjoyable thing (i.e., writing and posting on this blog) which I didn’t get done.   Those lapses are unfortunate casualties of the activities — and relationships — where I was spinning my wheels, where I was trying to create value in something fruitless, where I was trying to please the unappeasable.

Well, I guess there is always the value of accrued experience, codified into what will hopefully be a not-overly-zealous future early warning system.

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on June 1, 2011, in Business, Learning, Life, Productivity and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Love this post, D, and more importantly, really enjoying the increasing authority of the blog voice.

  2. This is the big thing now – backlash against multi-tasking after it being all the rage a few years ago. the brain is unilateral, only able to focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. Maybe Task-Switching is an important skill. How many tasks can you switch between and still do them with the attention and focus the task deserves?

    • Danny S: Yes, that is definitely the trend in the literature on personal effectiveness / productivity. In the world where I work, there is increasing interest in developing & training people’s Task Focus skills, given how distracting and multifarious the job environment has become.

      However you point out another important skill: Task Switching. Part of this will involve going back to the “old fashioned” skills of building one’s working memory, learning to learn and so forth. Brain Rules by John Medina and the work of Tony Buzan come to mind… or even the ability to strategically sequence activities so that they minimally disrupt / easily segue into each other.

      Irony: My computer froze while writing this reply… maybe too many windows open?? By the time the Task Manager came up, everything was fine again.

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