HAVE WE LOST THE ABILITY TO CONCENTRATE IN THE AGE OF MULTITASKING?
‘I have 20 things on my schedule today’.
‘I can eat while I’m preparing a work presentation’.
‘I prepared for the exam the same night I went to that awesome party’.
How many of us have said and heard statements like this? In today’s hyper-active world, doing too many things at a time is considered a sign of productivity or even high professional status. We text while we drive, work while we talk and shop online when we eat. Why?
There is no end to our work. If we have even 10 minutes to spare and sit alone quietly, we just cannot do it. We feel restless and empty when we are free. Not only that, we do anything and everything but the task at hand. When we should actually be working, we are actually checking Facebook. When we should be eating, we are watching Netflix. So, we give ourselves the illusion of ‘working’ but actually our mind is somewhere else entirely. But we tell ourselves it’s okay because we are ‘MULTITASKING’.
I’d like to share something that I have learnt during my journey as a student and professional. No matter how much multitasking is glorified, there is no substitute for focus.
People who are able to concentrate on one task or one assignment at a time and do it really well may look like they’re getting left behind, but eventually, they always come out on top.
That’s because to become an expert in anything, you need the ability to focus on it with complete sincerity. Einstein probably wouldn’t have come up with the theory of Relativity while watching TV. Abdul Kalam wouldn’t have been India’s leading defense scientist if he was going to parties. That’s because nobody becomes exceptional by working with a half mind.
To become really good at something, you have to give it your undivided attention. Not 50%, not 70% or even 90%. Sorry, but it just doesn’t work. It takes 100% of your focus, time and energy. Only then can expertise in a domain be achieved.
‘I wasn’t able to score well in the exam because I was busy with extra-curricular’.
‘I wasn’t able to finish the report because I had to help out my colleague’.
At some level, we are afraid to do just one thing because then there is no place left to hide, there are no excuses. If we are doing one thing, we can’t hide behind another. We are totally responsible, and that feels scary.
The world is full of distractions today. News, advertisements, entertainment and other things are constantly vying for our attention. This is how companies work and make profits. But in the process, what about our goals?
It doesn’t matter how many movies we’ve watched. It doesn’t matter how many sports events we watched. What matters is how we’re growing and building our expertise, our knowledge and our skill. That’s what will decide where we will be in our life 5 or 10 years from now.
All of us know today, there is no dearth of so-called qualified people. There are literally millions of engineers out there. There are millions of artists in the world. That’s just the way the world is today. How will we stand out? How will we compete? By adding ‘certificates’ to the CV? Everybody has those too nowadays. No, in my experience that helps only a little.
Today, the person who has an expertise in ONE thing is the most valuable person. It may be anything. It can be just one programming language. It can be just one musical instrument. But the level of skill should be something that nobody else can offer. These are the people who succeed. These are the people who stand out.
Study ONE course well. Do ONE internship well. Perform ONE job well. Do your very, very best. The rest will follow.
The power of focus is the superpower of the 21st century.
What do you think? Is multi-tasking more important than being focused?