Just Do It — One Thing at a Time

As I write this blog I’m listening to a podcast, keeping an ear tuned to how my children are getting along and boiling water for our family dinner tonight. This is standard procedure for me. After all, years ago a fortune cookie predicted my multi-tasking prowess when it told me, “Your ability to juggle many tasks will take you far.”

I mean a fortune cookie has to be trusted, right?

I will admit my ability to juggle lots of assignments and compartmentalize my emotions has been key to my successful career as a journalist. In fact, I tell my students that being able to keep tabs on dozens of stories while researching and reporting on a daily assignment is a skill that talented journalists acquire over time. It’s like working a muscle eventually becomes so taut and toned that it barely requires a workout any longer. 

When I began my career as a television reporter I worked as a “one-man band.” This was a reference to the street musicians who would play the drums, sing, play the harmonica and play other instruments at the same time. I would shoot the video for the story, conduct the interviews, report the story, write the story and go live with the story all by myself. What ultimately happened was I was 50% of a photographer and 50% of a reporter. 

Lately I feel that my ability to juggle many tasks is still a key attribute but maybe not one that I should utilize. When my wife and I have downtime and indulge in our favorite pastime of watching tv, each of us usually has our phones in hand. She’s playing a game and I’m rolling through Twitter or following a ballgame. What ultimately happens is our attention is divided and we’re neither able to focus fully on the tv show or on the game we’re playing or story we’re reading. 

Studies show that this type of divided attention causes us to be less productive because once we interrupt one task it takes us a while to reframe our brains to continue the other task. In fact, some scientists believe that multi-tasking is impossible. They say what we’re actually doing is “rapid task switching” (Popular Science, Sept. 2018) and that most of us aren’t very good at it. 

When we’re driving we like to listen to music, answer texts or talk on the phone. All of these activities distract us from the main activity — driving somewhere safely. 

I see this with my kids. If it were left to them, they would watch tv or play video games while doing their homework. The harm of that is obvious. They would be cheating themselves of developing strong study skills and would likely perform worse in school. 

The article in Popular Science recommends structuring your day within “30-minute chunks” and performing “focused work.” This sounds like a great idea to me although it probably doesn’t sound quite as appealing on a fortune cookie. 

(Photo by planeta on Foter.com / CC BY-SA)

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The Beginning
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Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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