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If Less Is More, Is More Less?

It’s our annual planning season and we’re knee-deep in goals and strategies and budget spreadsheets. I love and hate this time of year because it’s loaded with possibility, but it also tends to draw a sort of shade over the work we’re currently doing. And that’s bad because we’re in the middle of really important work – ironically, the very work we were so excited about last year at this time.

So I went looking for a little Zen to help me stay in the moment. Zen Habits is loaded with simple, practical guidelines for achieving big by focusing small. Leo Babauta nicely describes important concepts like figuring out what’s essential, clarifying the impact you’re looking for, and why and how to place limits.

Now I think I need more than just a little Zen, because I’m realizing I’ve been here before. I’ve told myself to narrow and focus. But I always get lured away by the forbidden fruit of “just this one other project.” This devilish voice in my head starts shouting, More, I want to do more! And my coworkers and colleagues are forever tempting me with these new exciting opportunities. I delude myself into thinking that I can chock my days fuller and still get my work done, and I end up multitasking. But am I really doing more?

I took this nifty test developed at Stanford University to see how well I multitask. Try it: Multitasking Test

Wow, I scored off the chart… in a bad way. Bottom line, I stink at multitasking. Humbling!

Take the test. You might score better than I did, but don’t get too cocky – because according to Neuroscientist and MIT Professor Earl Miller, none of us really multitasks. It isn’t physically possible. What we’re doing is switching from one thing to the next really fast. And, he says, every time we do – we lose time because we’ve got to refocus. Net result: multitasking = taking longer to do a poorer job.

So is more less? Well in my case, at least, yes!

Mark Twain said, “It takes nine months to have a baby, no matter how many people you put on the job.” This is now written on my 2011 planning folder. And I’ve bookmarked Zen Habits, because I recognize I need help kicking my addiction to “more.” I don’t want more, what I really want… is to achieve impact!

Photo 1: Geo Images