A Coaching Power Tool Created by Lorena Jauregui
(Life Coach, NETHERLANDS)
In a fast-paced environment, where quick solutions and results are valued, we tend to juggle multiple priorities during the day. Multi-tasking seems to be the best behavior or skill to acquire to succeed with today’s challenging demands. Multi-tasking is many times associated with being efficient. Even though Multi-tasking may result in quick responses and give a sense of achievement, on many occasions, it does not result in long-lasting and/or sustainable product solutions. Multi-tasking may also result in adding distractions to achieving the actual objective; e.g. checking the phone whilst responding to emails, and attending a meeting at the same time, resulting in not fully focusing on one single task. There is a general feeling of success by tackling multiple tasks at once, but we are not necessarily being the most productive or giving our best on any one particular task. Focusing on one task at a time may seem a slower process, however, when there are no distractions to shift our attention (e.g. cell phone, emails, etc.) we are more productive losing less time with interruptions, which results in quality work product/output that is more thoughtful.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary multi-tasking is defined as “a person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time”. However, the definition does not include any reference to efficiency, productivity, or the quality of the results achieved by doing more than one thing at a time.
Very common behavior in the modern world is to assist a training session or conference meeting with a laptop. At first sight, it seems a good idea to carry the laptop to take notes, however many people are tempted to start answering emails or finish a report/document that is due in the next few days. By doing this, the person may have a feeling of achievement by completing more than one thing at the same time, however, the attention is divided between two or more activities without dedicating the full attention to any one of them. As a result, the person may have a general idea of the training session or conference attended but may not be able to provide details as he/she was distracted by answering emails or writing the report. Similarly, the email or report written may not be of the highest grade/quality due to splitting their concentration with trying to listen during the training session/conference meeting. In this scenario, the person did not fully complete any activity, only a percentage of both.
This is just an example of the type of behavior we develop when multi-tasking. We train our minds to keep switching from one task to another, as well as from one thought to another. Another common perception of the modern world is around the multi-tasking mothers, multi-tasking successfully between work, motherhood, and socializing, creating enormous pressure on women to meet these demands. Not being able to meet these demands may be perceived as being an unsuccessful woman, instead of just being a result of multi-tasking.
In many cases multi-tasking between activities can turn into multi-tasking between thoughts; i.e. many activities on a “to do” list. This can result in an overwhelming feeling that could be managed by focusing on one thing at a time instead of multiple items at once. This overwhelming feeling may result in procrastinating and unfulfillment sensation, and a general feeling of not being able to move forward.
In contrast to multi-tasking, the definition of focus according to the Cambridge English Dictionary is “to give a lot of attention, time, energy, etc. to one particular group of customers or a particular activity”.
Focusing does not have the best marketing compared with multi-tasking. Many times, focusing is perceived as only being able to do one thing, one project, and therefore less efficient and productive in today’s world of “more and more”. That perception is not totally correct, focusing does not mean being unable to handle more than one project, activity, etc., – quite the opposite. Focusing means to work or give your quality attention to one thing at a time. By the end of the day, you may have handled several things but one at a time. That being said, in the last several year’s questions have been raised towards the productivity and quality of the outcomes when multi-tasking versus focusing.
Being a master of multi-tasking seems to be a desired skill to develop instead of learning how to maintain the focus. Multi-tasking is perceived to be more challenging than focusing, however, our attention is easily distracted, and we end doing multiple things at the same time. I believe multi-tasking may be a result of our inability to focus on one activity at a time resulting in switching our attention. Another reason for multi-tasking could be the avoidance of certain activities/topics as we may find them boring, painful, time-consuming, and therefore causing us to jump between tasks.
Another aspect of focusing on one thing at a time is that we may need to think more deeply about priorities, and how these priorities align with our goals, values, and purpose. Those who perceive multitasking as being able to perform multiple things at the same time, may not stop and think carefully on priorities. The stress and pressure of meeting work, personal, and social demands, also influence people’s behaviors, often leading to multi-tasking to deliver quick results to reduce the stress and pressure.
Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time.- Dave Ramsey – American personality, Financial Advisor & Radio Host
Focus is an important part of the coaching process. The coach partners with the client to maintain the focus on the desired outcome by:
- Drilling down to more specific goals as part of the main desired outcome, working with the client in each session on the smaller goals defined one by one - not all at the same time.
- Challenging the client during the session when a different outcome is brought up, and querying if the initial outcome needs to be redefined.
- Assisting the client with exploring the desired outcome, and aligning with the client’s priorities, values, and beliefs.
The perception of multi-tasking vs focus may be slowly changing but many people still believe that multi-tasking is a synonym of being more productive, efficient, getting better results, being smarter, and therefore more successful. In some cases, there is an underlying belief that the more we achieve the better the sense of accomplishment we have. However, this does not necessarily equal happiness, contentment, or fulfillment.
Others may believe that by multi-tasking you get to your destination faster. In fact, multi-tasking could result in feeling overwhelmed due to all the demands one may feel they need to achieve, hopping between thoughts resulting in no real action taken, and consequently procrastinating. The opposite of procrastinating could be a sense of emptiness by just achieving more and more without validating with the priorities, values, and beliefs.
By shifting the perspective from “achieving more in less time is synonyms of success, efficiency, achievement, etc.”, to “understanding that building one block at a time results in a strong foundation, consequently focusing on quality, value, relevancy”, the client will be able to eliminate the noise that multi-tasking can create, to align the priorities with values and beliefs. In some cases, when a person is used to be constantly multi-tasking, he or she may be involved in a routine of doing certain activities/behaviors without knowing the importance, and why it is being done or even if the activity/behavior is still valid in the current environment. When multitasking, a person can easily fall in doing without stopping to think or question to achieve what is on the to-do list.
Multi-tasking behavior can interfere or be a blocker in a persons’ real goals. The usage of multi-tasking as acceptable behavior in both professional and personal life will have an impact on toa persons’ underlying life goals. For example; the more I am (i.e. a parent, CEO, being friendly, beautiful, etc.) the happier I should be. Another example could be; the faster I achieve a, b, c, the more successful I will be.
By changing the perspective, the client can start asking themselves:
- What is the importance/meaning behind this goal?
- What is important for you about this goal?
- If you achieve this goal, how would you feel?
- How is this activity/behavior/goal serving you?
- What would you like to focus on first?
- What can help you focus?
- If you have to prioritize, how would that look like?
- What could be the first step?
- What is distracting you from achieving this goal?
- What could you do differently?
- What are your goals related to?
- What would happen if your goal(s) are not achieved?
The coach will partner with the client on how to reconcile the demands and expectations of the modern world, to the client’s life goals, purpose, and priorities. The coach will support the client to focus on what the client wants to achieve, whilst moving away from the actual action of multi-tasking and the perception associated with it; resulting in a change of mindset and behaviors that support the client’s life purpose and priorities.
Multi-Tasking vs Focus as a Coach
The coaching presence is a key element during the coaching process; to create an adequate level of trust/bond in the relationship with the client, and a safe environment. This can be challenging if the coach is:
- Not able to let go of their own personal issues; i.e. a personal worry, personal news, etc., before a session
- thinking about the next question, the next word the client would say
- already thinking about the next session, while the client is talking and believing that both can be done at the same time
- the phone is not in silent mode
- other people are around while coaching is in session
Focusing on the client, in what the client is saying verbally and non-verbally, will facilitate the coach to leave behind any other thought that is not related to the present coaching session. Trusting in the coaching process and the coach competencies will best serve the client by focusing on the CLIENT’s most important element. Each coach needs to explore the right tools and techniques to use, to facilitate focusing in the “present moment”, and therefore will support the connection with the Client.