Multitasking is bullshit

If we want the best outcomes, we have to take the best actions.

We can’t take the best actions unless we understand the situation.

We can’t understand the situation unless we pay attention to what’s going on.

We can’t pay attention to what’s going on without focus.

We can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

If we want to take the best actions, we need to stop trying to do seven things at once.

Multitasking is bullshit.

Stay on target

We’re easily distracted and sidetracked from our goals. We’re in our phones, in TV, in anywhere but the here and now.

Two things can help to prevent this:

  1. Knowing what’s important enough to pay attention to
  2. Being able to recognise when we’re distracted and coming back to focus

The first is fundamental, but frequently overlooked. We often don’t even acknowledge that something is important to us and worthy of achievement.

This is true not just of lofty goals, but also the nitty gritty of day to day life.

The dishes won’t wash themselves. The washing won’t hang itself out. Unless we accept that these are important enough to get done, then we won’t do them either. We’ll wake up in the morning to a messy kitchen and a pile of damp laundry.

The second is a little trickier, because it’s a product of our moment to moment awareness. It’s simple, but not easy. Like focussing on our breath.

Most of the time that we’re distracted, we’re not even aware of it. Distracted is pretty much our default state.

Being able to recognise distraction and let it go is skill, we build it up over time. And it’a skill worth cultivating. The more we pay attention, the more we realise just how distracted we often are.

The more we can identify our true intention, and then stay close to it with a gentle focus, the more likely we are to spend our time and attention on what is truly important to us.

Leaps are lies

The great leap forward is a myth.

If you notice that someone has leapt, they were actually just taking tiny, single, baby steps, one at a time. They were just doing it while you weren’t looking. Between your glances, they covered more ground than you expected – hence the leap.

We’re always looking for leaps, but to do that is to focus on the wrong thing. All we have to find are the tiny marginal gains – and then take those steps.

Just one more step forward.
Then another.
Then another.
Then another.

The trick is to keep going – no matter what.

While others hesitate, or get bored, or quit, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And they will look up at us and say “wow, they’ve leapt forward”.

Why goals lift us out of the mud

gunners-of-the-2nd-heavy-anti-aircraft-regiment-rca-pushing-a-3-7-inch-anti-aircraft-gun-through-mudImagine you’re trudging through a muddy field.

It’s up to your knees; the mud is sucking at your feet, every step forward is a battle; the wind and rain are lashing your exposed face and body.

It’s a miserable experience and you’ve got at least another 8 hours of this before you get where you’re going.

By all accounts, you’re having a pretty shitty time of it, and it’s not going to get better any time soon.

But while the current situation might be objectively cold, wet, miserable and hard – there’s no requirement for you to feel bad about it if you’re working towards a good enough goal.

How you feel about trudging across the field is going to depend on what you’re telling yourself about WHY you’re doing it.

If all you can think about is the field itself, then you’re in for miserable time. The road will be slow, the effort will be immense and the experience will be unnecessarily painful.

But if you can keep your eye on the prize, if the goal is meaningful, then it can transform the experience.

Meaningful goals put our current experience within a bigger, more meaningful context and this can drastically change our perspective of the here and now.

Suddenly we’re not just trudging though the mud, we’re going home to our family. Each step gets us closer, so each step now has great value.

If we’re in training, then each step makes us stronger and gives us more of an edge against our competitors.

If we’re making art, then each step, no matter how painful, becomes an expression of our work, a mechanism for our message.

But if we haven’t taken the time to give ourselves a meaningful goal, then guess what? We’re just trudging through a muddy field.

Finding happiness in rough times


We can always find something to be unhappy about. It’s not hard. Or clever.

We can always point to circumstances or situations which are sub-optimal (or just downright shitty) and say “that’s why I’m not happy”.

But where does that get us?

How does it help (us or others)?

How does it make things better?

We can, and should, find what is good and amplify it.

We can, and should, find what is bad and mitigate it.

But there is very little value in tethering our happiness even to these noble projects. They’re still external and outside of our complete control.

To be happy, even in the dark times – we should work to improve our character – our own interface with the world.

Can we stay calm when things get hectic?

Can we stay humble and grateful when things go our way?

Can we stay brave when things get scary?

Can we keep moving forward – one step at a time?

Can we keep striving to make things better?

If we work on our character – our reactions and interactions with an imperfect, unfair and indifferent world – then we always have something worthwhile to work on.

Our progress and growth can always be a source of satisfaction and drive since they are within our complete control.

Then we always have a something to be happy about, even when things are rough.