This is such a great statement and the idea behind it so important to leadership that I had to write a post around this subject.
Fill a room with new business owners – leaders – and ask them what they are really good at. Most will tell you that they are great multitaskers. And the statement usually comes with a slight puffing of the chest. They’ve got it wrong.
The new business paradigm is if you, as a leader, are a multitasker then you are not a good leader. You are doing work that should be done by someone else and that work – those interruptions – are keeping you from your mission. I can give you countless examples of why this is true but a story from Lord Chesterfield (circa 1740) said it so much better than I ever could:
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” To Chesterfield, singular focus was not merely a practical way to structure one’s time; it was a mark of intelligence. “This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.”
When are you best? If you need to really bring your “A” game to achieve something, do you work on the project while answering calls, replying to emails? No, you shut yourself in a room, put out the Do Not Disturb sign and get to it. And studies suggest this is the right thing to do. The American Psychological Society conducted a test and the results were pretty conclusive that you are not doing yourself any favors by working on more than one thing at a time. (Click here for a summary of the study).
Here is your call to action that will make you a better leader, a better business owner. Set aside time in the day or in the week that you will not be disturbed. Pick a task that is very important to your company and you are the one to accomplish the task. Maybe work on a new strategic customer or work on the new product you’ve been thinking about. The rule is turn off your phone, close out your email program and don’t allow any interruptions. You will be shocked at the results you get.
I am a huge fan and ex-student of Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach. He is renowned as one of the greatest leadership coaches of all time. He has coached presidents, CEO’s of fortune 100 companies and world leaders. His philosophy is remarkably simple: the student defines his unique ability and then spends many focus days every month working with his unique ability. Focus Days are entire days where you follow the rules I described above: no phones, no emails, no interruptions. I can tell you from personal experience this works. Give it a try.