One of the most important resources we have is our time. It is not something we can keep for future use, or something we can redo when we make a mistake. What keeps our attention takes our time. In an Entrepreneur magazine article entitled “Climbing out of the Inbox”, Joe Robinson wrote about how the workplace concentration of employees decreases as e-mail alerts continually distracted them and instant messages kept them focused on something other than their work, add up the buzzing Blackberrys and frequently ringing cell phones. Interruptions that are most attributable to e-mail overload take the attention of employees and increase their level of stress while decreasing the level of job satisfaction.
The article also highlighted that multitasking is a myth. David Meyer, cited by Robinson in the article, stated that quality work does not follow multitasking. We may be able to sing while taking a shower, but doing two or more tasks using the same cognitive channels does not benefit us at all. It will just take more time to produce work that might not be high quality at all. We tend to make more mistakes and get burned out fast.
I remember stories of people who have opened Internet tabs one by one only to find out at the end that they fell short of their To-Do lists. Or how a thousand times distracting Facebook was. Or how YouTube ate up most of the time for research. And many more.
But what about people who claim to be experts in multitasking? What about people who cannot–or can never–get a paper done by just sitting with a paper and a pen in front of them? By the way, we are the Net generation. The Internet is integrated in almost anything we do almost anytime of the day. This is one of those advantages the Internet is offering us–being able to do many things at the same time.
For me, it’s not about the number of tasks we do at the same time. As one quote says, “Balancing so much needs focus.” It’s not that we need to focus on one single thing. I think it’s more on giving focus on what you do, whether it be one major thing or a handful. I know people who handled weekly small groups and managed to graduate cum laude. I know active organization officers who got to maintain nurturing family relationships. And there are a lot more combinations, depending on what the priorities are.
Priorities. It’s all about knowing what or who they are, and focusing on them. Too much will be enough for clutter and confusion. Rather, opt to eliminate what is unnecessary and fix our eyes on what matters most. I do not say we remove all means of entertainment and get serious with our matters of “life and death” all of the time. No one could sanely endure doing so. We could check Facebook for a while; chat with friends from time to time; spend time with pictures; download videos; read, and so on. But I think Winifred Gallagher said it right in his book Rapt: we are the sum of what we pay attention to.
What we focus on determines our fulfillment.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3:13b