While reading this (and drinking hot coffee), raise your hand if you’ve ever been under the spell of multitasking. Lured by its promise of doing more! Achieving more! Keeping several balls in the air! Unless you’re a juggler, multitasking’s effectiveness is a fallacy.
I was a multitasker until I came across the book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. It challenges you to look at all the “to-dos” on your list and keep asking what matters most until you pinpoint the most important task in a project. Once you have identified that ONE thing, give it all your focus and finish it.
This approach is so powerful that not only am I using it personally, but we are applying it to improve Nordis’ application development, which I lead.
Recognizing multitasking’s costs
My team enhances, expands and maintains the growing ecosystem that is the Expresso customer communications management software suite. We work with lots of deadlines and projects that stop and go due to outside forces.
In IT, one of the biggest productivity detriments is having developers switch between tasks. The costs of task switching add up, even with easy tasks, because of the mental blocks and delays created in having to stop one thing, restart another, hopefully regaining your train of thought.
Research published by the American Psychological Association indicates
multitasking may take more time in the end and produce more error
and can reduce one’s productivity by 40%.
Putting The ONE Thing into practice
When I proposed changing our processes to allow our developers to focus on the single most important thing assigned to them, our CEO Ronnie Selinger immediately gave me his support and blessing. We’re using this approach to inform processes and procedures to better understand what, as a company, we want to tackle in application development, then putting plans and strategy against it.
Somewhat ironically, this approach also takes its cues from how computers work. Computers run multiple programs at once, misleadingly called multitasking because they are actually only performing one task at a time. Microprocessors are so fast that things seem to happen simultaneously, but in fact, the computer idles one task while working on another. It remembers precisely where it left off, however, and isn’t bothered by competing priorities, a pesky coworker, or an IM about donuts in the conference room.
How do we figure out the most important thing? Client requests for help top the list. This means that nothing else is going to compete for our attention. We focus on that task until we deliver a great solution, which is in Nordis’ DNA.
Completing the most important thing energizes team members to take on the next most important thing. It’s like the chain reaction in knocking over a row of dominos. Physics research at MIT has proven one domino can knock down the next that is 1.5 times taller. It’s called force amplification. Among my teammates, I’ve seen the success that comes from a singular focus that builds on its own momentum.
Multitasking is a social epidemic. The noise that surrounds us is always pulling our attention. We have forgotten the value of being here now. Based on The ONE Thing, I’ve introduced a saying in our department: “Focus and Finish.” That’s our anthem. Not too dramatic, but very powerful for us.
About the Author
Lesster joined Nordis Technologies in 2015, following leadership roles in software development and engineering in the hospitality/timeshare and financial services industries, focusing on consumer incentives, technology and payments software. As Vice President of Application Development, Lesster oversees development of Nordis’ Expresso and its utility application, and ensures the operational performance of the Expresso and its product suite.
Vice President, Application Development