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Episode 11: Focus vs. Multi-tasking: Focus Wins In a Knock-out

Video Highlights

people who work in offices check email as many as 37 times per hour!
the human brain is actually not good at multi-tasking
What we call multi-tasking is actually just a very rapid and repeated change of focus
throughout history, greatness among leaders and high performers has come from sharp focus
the very best in every field take time to focus on the task at hand, with regularity

Hi, everybody! Dr. Cobb back with you again today.

We are going to talk about something that I am passionate about, which is learning to focus. The reason this comes up, I just read a study literally yesterday and it said right now, on average, a person working in an office somewhere checks their e-mail 37 times per hour.

Now stop and think about that.

Thirty-seven times per hour! More than once every two minutes. Every minute, minute and a half, people are clicking into their e-mail and they are looking for a conversation, a problem, a praise, something that is going on.

There is an addictive component to that. There is something really interesting that goes on when you have e-mail conversations, but really, e-mail is just a metaphor in my mind for what’s happening in our world, which is just this ongoing “requirement” for people to be able to multitask.

One of the things that we are learning about the human brain is that it is not good at that. Multitasking actually doesn’t really occur at all. In fact, what we learn to do is simply shift our focus rapidly between one or more things, but the whole of history is about the fact that greatness, that doing something really, really well, comes from having an extremely sharp focus on that topic.

Now I was thinking about this as I was reading this study, because most of you know I’ve come up in a martial arts, fighting, combative background. In my early martial arts, we did a lot of breaking. Breaking means breaking boards and bricks and things like that, and the early training was all about learning to focus, because you can’t just whack away at a board with these little light taps for 37 times and hope it breaks.

Image of a woman with eight arms and something different in each hand.

If you’re going to break a board, you have to hit it hard and through it once and so, as I said, a lot of the training was about developing focus.

One of the things I want to encourage you to think about this week is “How can I bring more focused time into my life to accomplish the tasks that really matter?” You may have to have conversations with your boss, with your coworkers, with your family, with your friends, but the greatest gift I think we can give ourselves is becoming competent at something.

Doing something really, really well and to make that happen, we have to give ourselves time away from the many thousands of distractions that are available on a daily basis and spend our time doing what needs to be done.

So, just a little encouragement, and as I said, I get really passionate about this topic, because I’ve worked with so many really high achievers in my life, and I’m an avid student of high achievers throughout history, and this is such a common theme, that they took the time to focus on the task at hand, the topic at hand, what they wanted to become an expert at and they did that with regularity.

This week, as I said, try and set aside some time, maybe an hour, maybe a half of a day, to really focus on something that you need to get done and ask everyone around you to support you in that process, I think you will all be really, really pleased with the results.


Have a great week!

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