Multi-tasking? Or not the full 100%?

Is the ability to multi-task holding women back? There is something to be said for concentrating on one thing at a time.




Women are notoriously considered to be (and there seems to be science to back it) better at multi-tasking than men. In fact there are many jokes around this supposed skill that we have as women.


But I have to confess something – I always perform better at whatever I do when I just do one thing at a time.


When I try to cook a meal and speak on the phone, I notice that I lose track of the phone conversation – and sometimes make a mess of the meal.


Another test of the reduced capability multi-tasking delivers is evidenced by trying to use the phone and email at the same time – how many wrong clicks have landed us in a potentially difficult situation!


When I truly focus on a task, turn off the phone and cut myself off from any distractions, I achieve faster and better outcomes.


So I was very pleased to hear Dr Adam Fraser speak this week about the value of getting into what he called “flow”. Now whatever you call this state, it is really the mental space we are in when we commit clearly and solely to one activity. A mental space where we are truly in the present – not thinking about what went wrong yesterday or what is coming up tomorrow, but what is really happening in our lives right now!


His thesis in part was that we spend a lot of our lives and working lives in a very distracted space – caused both by internal and external factors. In this space we are less productive and often very frustrated as we perform at a lower level.


He has done a lot of work with elite athletes and used some great examples of athletes who are so focused on their immediate task – for example, Tiger Woods is an athlete who is extremely focused on what he does; and the results of course speak for themselves.


Fraser’s belief, resulting from extensive research into human behaviour, is that we can do things that ensure that we get into flow – internal mental things around discipline to focus on the task at hand. Equally if we work/live in a very distracting environment we may need to demand our own space.


You might say “but how can I do that?”.


Well by creating boundaries around your time. For example, this is my time for exercise, this is my time for emails, phone calls etc. By dividing our time into chunks we can focus on specific tasks, give them our full attention and achieve more in a shorter space of time.


I have written before about “busyness” and business – this thing about focus and flow seems to fit well into the idea of being less busy but more business like and productive.


So next time you set out to do two things at the one time, think about how you could do these tasks sequentially and a lot more effectively.


Which brings me back to men. Does this incapacity to multi-task really make them more efficient and in any way account for their greater success in the business world?


It’s food for thought and has made me determined to work on doing one thing at a time –really well.


This will be good news for Jason my golf coach, who has been telling me for some time that to really become good at this frustrating game one needs to be totally focused on the present!



To read more Marcia Griffin blogs, click here.

High Heeled Success is Marcia Griffin’s latest book, and is a frank account of building a business from a solitary sales person to a multi-million dollar business with 4700 sales consultants around Australia and New Zealand. It recounts successes and failures along the way and was written to inspire entrepreneurs-particularly women to triumph in business.

High Heeled Success (Kerr Publishing) is available directly from Marcia ([email protected]) or Domain Books



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