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Focus on One Thing

Recent experiences and training have reinforced for me the value of focusing on one thing at a time. This is true both in terms of getting things done and in terms of personal learning and development.

I have heard it mentioned many times that context switching between multiple tasks throughout the day can cost 15 minutes or more of lost time per switch due to the time spent remembering where one left off. This alone will reduce productivity by as much as 40% depending on the number of task switches throughout the day. But the impacts go just beyond clock time. Switching tasks disrupts the flow state that is not only highly productive but also more enjoyable and motivating. Frequent task switching can therefore negatively impact your motivation which then will drag down performance over the long term. Perhaps worst of all, various research has shown that chronic multitasking can actually make you stupider.

While most people seemed concerned about the importance of focus for productivity, it is perhaps even more critical when it comes to personal development. Reaching high levels of mastery in any area requires deliberate practice. Each practice session needs to focus on a specific, challenging area of performance and through iterations of repetition, evaluation, and feedback makes it better. Each performance iteration you need to focus on one aspect to improve in subsequent iterations until it is better, then move on to the next aspect.

I debated adding more to this article regarding useful strategies for focusing and avoiding multi-tasking, but I decided to save that for a future post and keep this one focused on highlighting the importance of focusing on just one thing at a time. :)

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