Be Your Best

Archive for January, 2015

The Only 3 Situations When Multi-Tasking Is A Good Thing…

by on Jan.23, 2015, under Blog Posts

Todd Gifford - Success Coach

Todd Gifford – Success Coach

I can’t count how many times I have heard someone tell me they are a great multi-tasker.  For whatever reason, “multi-tasking” has been turned into some type of badge of honor.  There was a time I thought that multi-tasking was a means to get more done in a shorter amount of time, and therefore, more efficient.  On top of that, there was a time when being able to do 3 things at one time made you some type of top performer in my mind.

As I gained more years of experience, read more books, and spent time around extremely successful people, it became very apparent to me that multi-tasking was a recipe for ineffectiveness and inefficiency.  Bottom line in my book is that multi-tasking is a very bad thing with only a very few limited exceptions, which I list below.  The fundamental reason that multi-tasking (aka doing more than one thing at one time, or bouncing around quickly between several things within a relatively short time period) is very detrimental to overall performance is that your brain is never allowed to fully focus on any of the tasks or projects —- and hence, less than full performance output.

Structured Distraction

Multi-tasking can feel good and feel effective, but science is flat out against you in multi-tasking mode.  Multi-tasking is ‘structured distraction’ at its best.  There is a lot of scientific research about how your brain behaves and performs under various situations.  When you are momentarily distracted from a train of thought or focus, even for just a few seconds, your brain takes a significant amount of time to reengage back to the previous task/focus at an effective performance level.  The amount of time to refocus back into a well-concentrated state varies in the various studies, but they all agree it takes minutes (not seconds).  Further, another big problem with distraction is that you can lose information and ideas that were developing in the well-focused time period.  It is a bit like ‘starting over’ after a distraction takes you out of your focused concentration zone.  A lot of creative ideas and innovations are a result of a cumulative process of thought or sequential thoughts:  “XXX leads to YYY which is linked to ZZZ, which is just like AAA, etc…”  Jumping in and out of topics or concepts does not allow your mind to as effectively accumulate the sequence of ideas as does consistent focus and concentration on one task.  If that is not enough, distraction creates more errors.

Being In the Zone

We have all had those periods of time where we lost track of time or forgotten what we are even doing at the moment because we were so deeply engaged and focused.  It could be doing a sport, being engaged in a hobby, working on a project in our job, etc…  We have come to anecdotally call this state as being ‘in the zone’.  More technically defined, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a best-selling book called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” where he unpackaged the concept of being in the zone (he calls it a “Flow state”) and describes how to achieve it whenever you want.  Although Csikszentmihalyi describes the Flow state (aka ‘in the Zone’ state) as more than just focused and distraction-free (he also includes extreme state of satisfaction, enjoyment and highly creative), the Flow/Zone state is a period of massive productivity and innovation.  Think about a hobby or sport you are extremely passionate about and then think about times where you have been so immersed in that activity, that hours have gone by and it felt like just minutes.  In these situations you tend to accomplish a great deal.  Your concentration and focus is extraordinary in the zone/Flow state.  And in these instances, you probably ensured that you were not going to be distracted because distraction is too disruptive and distasteful.  In the case of some hobbies, distraction from focus can be downright dangerous.

You don’t find very many wood workers in their shops trying to saw wood, talk on the phone, watch TV, and check their email simultaneously!  The KEY POINT here is that maximum effectiveness (and efficiency) at any given task is achieved by consistent singular focus and concentration on that one task.  When the task is done, move to the next task with equally high concentration and distraction-free environment.

The Only 3 Situations Where Multi-Tasking Is Good And Truly More Efficient/Effective

Having said all that about singular focus and distraction-free concentration on a single concept or task produces the greatest results, there are always exceptions that should be noted.  I feel there are only 3 times when multi-tasking is highly effective and efficient:  Multi-tasking while Exercising, Eating, and Traveling.  In these case exceptions, the core task (eating, exercising/moving around, flying/driving/riding) is effectively on auto-pilot, which allows you to make use of that time for other important or valuable activities.  And this is the key difference with these exceptions.  Basically everything else you are doing or should be doing is not on auto-pilot and requires full and undivided attention.

Exercise – most types of exercise provide the opportunity to multi-task one or two other things simultaneously, with the side benefit of these other activities making exercising more fun and enjoyable.  I watch TV while exercising, but I can also exercise while passively watching/listening to TV AND skim a magazine, mail, or newsletter.  Arguably I am not intently focused on either the TV, mail or the magazine, but am entertained or educated while getting in a good workout.  Other variations like exercise+TV+Read Book or exercise+Audio Book+TV, etc… are good multi-tasking options.

Eating – here is another great opportunity to effectively multi-task.  Listening to an audio book or reading a book while eating is super productive.  Layer in “light” exercise while eating and listening to an audio book is mult-tasking maximus! Most people don’t think eating and exercising mix well, but doing a walk on a treadmill, while eating a light meal or snack, and listening to an audio book works pretty well.

Traveling – I am amazed at how few people on airplanes (or buses or other public transportation) are not reading an educational book or magazine/newsletter, etc…  This is a tremendous opportunity to multi-task (travel while learning).  With respect to driving, most agree that multi-tasking is not a safe idea.  However, one really great multi-tasking activity while driving is listening to audio books.  It is safe and super productive.  I know people who have learned a second language simply by doing audio books in their time behind the wheel.

Multi-tasking is rarely a good idea, and generally is a great way to achieve less than stellar results.  The uninformed think multi-tasking is a badge of honor based on how many things they can do at the same time.  The reality is, with the exception of Exercising, Eating, and Traveling, the super successful people take great measures to work singularly focused on just one task at a time.

Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford

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One of My Most Important Mentors…Who I Have Never Met or Talked To In-Person.

by on Jan.12, 2015, under Blog Posts

DEE President, Todd Gifford, with Walt Disney

DEE President, Todd Gifford, with Walt Disney

I believe that mentors and role models are very important, and most people associate those with during your childhood.  But I think it is important to continue to have mentors and role models into adulthood, and really your entire life.  I think one of the toughest things there is is to go at life “alone”, without coaching from someone that you trust.  I am not talking about your spouse or friends or other family members.  These people are obviously close to you, but they are not always “mentors” or “coaches” for you.  There may be some things you confide in these people for, but with respect to your work or job or profession or hobbies, it is more likely that you want or need coaching from someone that is an expert or master, that you can relate to and “can relate to you”.

Over time, as you get older, your selected mentors can and do change.  This makes sense as your work, objectives, and interests evolve and change over time.  Occasionally, someone that you have admired, looked at as a role model, and sought guidance from as a child continues to be a strong mentor or coach for you as an adult.  That is truly a beautiful thing because it seems to me that the longer you are able to extract value and important guidance from a mentor or coach, the better.  It is a form of a relationship that can get better with age.

Let me clarify something…when I say mentor or coach, some people automatically assume that you have to interact with that person live or via written word in order to “communicate” or receive guidance or coaching from them.  I absolutely see this as not needing to be the case.  And, so much so that I feel that even your best mentors and coaches do not even have to be living while you receive guidance and valuable insight from them.  This goes beyond the normal “person I admire” concept.  Admiration is definitely a portion of someone being one of your mentors or coaches.  You have to respect and admire a mentor.  It is routine for people to describe famous individuals (or non-famous individuals) that have passed away a short or long time ago to be someone “they admire”.  What I am talking about with a true mentor or coach is someone who you admire and respect, but someone who communicates to you and coaches you, and someone that you seek to emulate.

How does someone who is no longer living effectively communicate to you, give you advice, or coach you?

One primary way is through books.  One of the incredible things about books is that they archive and preserve very detailed and important information about important people and what people did when they were alive — so that we can open the vault today and understand them (receive communication from) when we need to.  Another resource is letters, diaries, or more modern ‘blogs’.  Yet another way to communicate with your deceased mentor is through recordings, either audio or video.  Whether the resource is authored by the person you are wanting to seek coaching from or it is a biographical account from a 3rd person, the information is invaluable.  There are many other resources you can tap into to “communicate with” and “listen” to your deceased mentors providing coaching and advice.  I am not talking about a séance and talking to the dead — this is about studying the person and listening with your mind.

One of My Most Important Mentors

I am fortunate to have one of my mentors as a kid still be on my key mentors list today…Walt Disney.  I became fascinated with Walt Disney as an 8 or 9 year old, about the time when two things happened.  First, I remember being mezmorized watching Walt Disney speak at the beginning and end of the “Wonderful World of Disney” program that would be on each week.  Second, I remember getting a ‘famous person’ written report assignment in one of my school classes — and choosing Walt Disney as the person I would learn about and write about — which caused me to get a book or two to read about him in depth.  At the time I was watching Walt Disney talk each week on TV, I did not realize he had already died some years prior.  As I was watching and listening to him, he was communicating with me as if he was still alive, and almost as if he was talking only to me.  I said I was mezmorized!  Everything he said resonated with me, inspired me, fascinated me, or taught me something important.  He was mentoring me even though he was no longer alive.  As I began to read more about Walt Disney and many of his ventures like Disneyland and later Disney World, his mentoring continued.

The Critical Key that Unlocks Mentoring from someone who is no longer living

Although there was a period in my life where I did not look to Walt Disney for mentoring and coaching (you know the age range: 16 – 25 years old where you pretty much don’t think you need any coaching from anyone!), Walt Disney continues to be a mentor for me today.  His guidance is different for me today than it was 40 years ago, but I still get extremely important coaching from him.  Today, Walt’s coaching helps me understand how to continuously innovate our business, interact with clients, provide incredible customer [we call customers “clients”, Walt called them “Guests”] service and experiences, and overcome adversities.  As a kid, Walt was mentoring me to shoot for the moon and take some chances, follow my passion, have confidence in myself even if people around me were not so confident.  It is interesting to see how a remarkable person such as Walt Disney, even if not alive, can coach and mentor you if you study them with questions that are on your mind or are purposefully seeking answers as you interact with the resources about them.  This is the critical key to getting quality mentoring from the proverbial dead famous person:  Study information about them with specific questions or problems you want answers to.

Having mentors and coaches is very important, but don’t limit these to just the people you can talk to live or via electronically.  Tap into coaching from great people who are no longer with us.

Be Your Best,

Todd D. Gifford

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