Successful Leaders Learn How to Ditch the Multitasking Myth

Every leader realizes that the world around them has changed – and is changing at an ever-increasing pace. The demands on a leader’s time and energy are on an upward trend, and show no signs of leveling off.

What’s worse, it may even seem that the skills and perspectives that were effective for past success may now have become a liability for future productivity. With so much going on, it’s almost  impossible to stay focused.

It’s time for new strategies and tactics to cope with the shifting ground of missed opportunities and unexpected threats in today’s ever-changing environment. 

 Somewhere along the way, we got distracted. As much as we multitask, love our devices and feel like we’re in control, deep down we know that something is off. Shortened attention spans, declines in critical thinking, lack of sleep, self-doubt and decreased creativity are just some of the effects coming to light in an age of digital distraction.

It’s time to reclaim our lives. It’s time to take control.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Life Scale: How to Live a More Creative, Productive, and Happy Life by Brian Solis

Lifescale is a journey of self-discovery and growth. It’s about getting back into balance and remastering our destinies. Author Brian Solis knows first-hand. He struggled with distraction and all of its ill effects. To get his life back, he developed a set of techniques, exercises, and thought experiments designed to tame the chaos, and positively and productively navigate our day-to-day lives. Instead of falling victim to the never-ending cycle of newsfeeds, Likes, addictive apps, and boredom scrolling (aka the endless scroll), we can learn to manage our time and inspire our own lives in a way that will bring meaning back―without sacrificing the benefits that our devices bring us.

In Lifescale, Brian has done the legwork to pull together scientific findings and practical tools into one book. Readers―especially those who are distracted―will connect with the humor, pathos, and inspiration inside. 

With the renewed perspective Lifescale offers, we can finally learn to prioritize what matters, and live our digital and physical lives with intention and true happiness.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Have you ever come to a realization that you couldn’t focus the way you used to? It may have been exhibited when you couldn’t complete that project in the time you used to. It may have been reflected in the icy stares of spouse and family as you look over your phone at them during dinner. It may have been the thirty minutes lost as you scrolled through your social media platforms with no purpose.

The worst part may be the illusion of getting things done, checking off to-do lists, producing, meeting deadlines (albeit with much more effort required).

When did we get so busy?

Every day we struggle to balance every personal and professional responsibility, resorting to dividing our attention constantly among multiple demands.

That’s called “multitasking,” and it’s a myth.

Doing so many tasks at once leaves us with insufficient attentional energy to do any of them really well.

With all this multitasking, are we actually learning how to work more efficiently? Science says no.

The corrosive effects of multitasking include:

Wastes time, attention, and energy – While you may manage to produce some output, productivity, engagement, and value are usually compromised.

Attacks output quality – Reports show that working on two or more projects simultaneously takes longer than if you worked on each one individually.

Makes you mistake prone – From typos to unexplained lapses in logic, random errors appear in everything you produce, because you’re overwhelming the frontal cortex and not giving yourself enough depth and space for critical thinking

Hinders intellectual and affective processes – By compromising our intellectual and affective processes, we impair our internalized knowledge, our comprehension and ability to grasp complexity, and critical analysis.

Causes stress – When you are switching between tasks, you place yourself in a mode of high alert, or on the edge – and your true creativity is not kindled.

Makes you miss out on life – If you’re multitasking, the inattentional blindness that results prevents your brain from processing experiences that inspire thinking and creativity.

Affects your memory – Switching between talks disrupts short-term memory, causing you to miss or forget details in the moment.

Leads to increased distractibility – Researchers have found that multitaskers exhibit increased behavioral distractibility.

Hurts your relationships – At the most basic level, whether you’re with loved ones, friends, colleagues, and so on, if you break moments of engagement to mindlessly multitask, your actions, maybe not your words, say, “I’m only partially in this moment right now with you.”

Saps your energy – Cognitive costs are just one of the many assets you’ll spend by multitasking – there are also biological and emotional costs. You’re expending exorbitant energy, exhausting the oxygenated glucose in our brain.

Brian Solis, Life Scale: How to Live a More Creative, Productive, and Happy Life

A NEXT STEP 

Think you can multitask?  Try this exercise from Fast Company magazine:

Time yourself doing the following two actions:

1) Spell aloud, letter by letter, “Jewelry is shiny” at the same time as you write your full name.

2) Spell aloud, letter-by-letter, “Jewelry is shiny” and then, after you are done with that, write your name.

It will probably take you at least twice as long to do number one as number two. However, if you practice spelling “Jewelry is shiny” aloud for a couple minutes, it’ll become automatic. You’ll no longer have to think to do it, and you’ll be able to complete the two tasks at the same time without incurring the switching cost.

This simple exercise demonstrates the practical difficulty of attempting to multitask.

For another measurement of both the futility and costs of multitasking, review the ten corrosive effects of multitasking above.

For each, recall an example of a time when you attempted to multitask. How did you feel? As an honest assessment, did you really think you were accomplishing more by multitasking?

What do you need to change in order to avoid multitasking? Make a stop doing list and review it regularly with someone you trust.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 139-2, released February 2020.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>> Learn about and purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Learn about and purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here <<

Successful Leaders Create Remarkable Results from Tiny Changes

Every leader realizes that the world around them has changed – and is changing at an ever-increasing pace. The demands on a leader’s time and energy are on an upward trend, and show no signs of leveling off.

What’s worse, it may even seem that the skills and perspectives that were effective for past success may now have become a liability for future productivity. With so much going on, it’s almost  impossible to stay focused.

It’s time for new strategies and tactics to cope with the shifting ground of missed opportunities and unexpected threats in today’s ever-changing environment. 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Atomic Habits, by James Clear

No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving–every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits–whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

According to author James Clear, it is easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.

On the other side of that thought are tiny improvements done consistently over time – habits.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. In the same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.

While Clear believes there is no one right way to create better habits, he suggests his four-step approach – based on personal experiences and research – can be effective regardless of where you are or what you’re trying to change.

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. Breaking it down into these fundamental parts can help us understand what a habit is, how it works, and how to improve it.

This four-step pattern is the backbone of every habit, and your brain runs through these steps in the same order each time.

First, there is the cue. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that produces a reward. Your mind is continuously analyzing your internal an external environment for hints of where rewards are located. Because the cue is the first indication that we’re close to a reward, it naturally leads to a craving.

Cravings are the second step, and they are the motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation or desire – without craving a change – we have no reason to act. What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers. Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state.

The third step is the response. The response is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. Whether a response occurs depends on how motivate you are and how much friction is associated with the behavior. If a particular action requires more physical or mental effort than you are willing to expend, then you won’t do it.

Finally, the response delivers a reward. Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The carving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: 1) they satisfy us and 2) they teach us.

If a behavior is insufficient in any of the for stages, it will not become a habit. Eliminate the cue and your habit will never start. Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act. Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it. And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

A NEXT STEP

In Atomic Habits, author James Clear introduced a four-step model for human behavior (above). Set aside some time this Sunday night for personal reflection, after the business of the day is gone and everyone else is asleep. Use the following insights and lessons as a guideline for developing a plan to work on removing an old habit or installing a new habit this week.

Awareness comes before desire. A craving can only occur after you have noticed an opportunity.

Happiness is simply the absence of desire. When you observe a cue, but do not desire to change your state, you are content with the current situation.

It is the idea of pleasure that we chase. The feeling of satisfaction only comes after we act; before, we are only seeking the image of pleasure generated in our minds.

With a big enough why you can overcome any how. If your motivation and desire are great enough (why you are acting), you’ll take action even when it is quite difficult.

Your actions reveal how badly you want something. If you keep saying something is a priority but you never act on it, then you don’t really want it.

Which insight is most relevant to you this week? Write down what you will do about it and place it in a repeatedly visible place like your computer monitor, bathroom mirror or automobile dashboard. 
Repeat this exercise every week and after 90 days celebrate all that God has done!

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 139, released February 2020.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>> Learn about and purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Learn about and purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here <<

Successful Leaders Shed Their Bias for Action

Every leader realizes that the world around them has changed – and is changing at an ever-increasing pace. The demands on a leader’s time and energy are on an upward trend, and show no signs of leveling off.

What’s worse, it may even seem that the skills and perspectives that were effective for past success may now have become a liability for future productivity. With so much going on, it’s almost  impossible to stay focused.

It’s time for new strategies and tactics to cope with the shifting ground of missed opportunities and unexpected threats in today’s ever-changing environment. 

 What if the leadership practices we’ve worked so hard to master are now getting in the way? In fact, what if they are actually holding us down and preventing us from leading for growth and innovation? Forget “what if.” It’s happening

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Leadership Unchained by Sarah Canaday

In Leadership Unchained, Sara Canaday offers a unique perspective that helps modern leaders break free from the chains of conventional wisdom and blaze new trails toward even greater success. If you’re a current or future leader, this book can become your game-changing guide to the new era of evolutionary leadership – the kind that’s no longer tethered to standard operating procedures in our chaotic, digitally overwhelmed world. You’ll learn when to apply classic principles. And when to boldly defy them.

Don’t allow the thoughts and habits that were pivotal in your past to become the chains that hold you down in the future. Let go of your dependence on the old rules, and break free. Leadership Unchained can show you how.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

We humans are wired to get things done. The natural bias for action is in our DNA, strongly valued by our society, and heavily reinforced by prominent leaders.

This perception tells the story. People who take action are seen as strong, disciplined, respected, and successful. Those who don’t are quickly classified as lazy or lacking in drive and ambition.

The message comes through, loud and clear: If we want to succeed, we need to act.

This natural tendency for action has been unnaturally elevated in today’s fast-paced environment at home, work, and even in our “play” spaces.

However, action for the sake of action doesn’t produce results. While constant motion might look like success on the outside, it could actually be undermining our leadership efforts in enormous ways.

Successful leaders in the modern era seem to have adopted a new habit – an unexpected one that involves pushing back against the deeply rooted bias for action.

Modern leaders have perfected the strategic pause.

Instead of making action the default for every challenge, these leaders are pairing that alternative with an opposite response. It’s not about replacing action, which we know is a necessary leadership ingredient. We still need to reach our goals, meet deadlines, and produces results. This is different.

They think of it as developing a companion habit that celebrates BEING rather than DOING. It involves a strategic pause. A mental time-out. Space for their brains to percolate. Whatever we call it, this new habit requires consistently taking some time away form the chaos of business to let ourselves think.

We need time to mentally breathe. To plan and reflect. To give our brains a chance to process all of the knowledge we’ve been packing in. Pausing allows us to connect the dots between information in different ways and look at challenged from a fresh angle that we simply can’t do when we’re in constant motion.

Sarah Canaday, Leadership Unchained

A NEXT STEP

According to author Sarah Canaday, leaders who can shake off the age-old bias for action and perfect the unconventional art of the strategic pause will reap a multitude of benefits.

Try the following suggestions by Canaday:

Deliberately hit “pause.”

Set time every day (or at least every week) to give yourself the mental space you need to become more productive. Allow time for creativity. For the neurons in your brain to connect in unusual ways. It can help you gain remarkable clarity and think about challenges on a bigger, broader level.

Model this practice.

You already know that “doing nothing” has developed a bad reputation, so you can become one of the trailblazers who changes that perception. Remember: your team members are closely watching how you act and react to every situation.

Encourage your team to pause.

As a leader, you have the power and influence to help your team members develop new habits that can make them more productive. Make sure they also have time in their schedules to stop and think. That’s tricky when deadlines are tight, but the long-time benefits will be worth it. Give them the calendar space that encourages them to give it a try, then find a way to reward them for doing so. After all, what is rewarded gets repeated!

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 139, released February 2020.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>> Learn about and purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Learn about and purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here <<