Many have long touted the efficiency of multitasking, especially with the availability of the numerous technological tools for busy executives, but recent research studies have proven otherwise. In one research study to test attention and memory, “low multitaskers” consistently outperformed “high multitaskers.” Another research study indicated that shifting gears from one task to another, especially one that is less familiar actually costs time.

George Fraser, named “Black America’s #1 Networker” by Black Enterprise Magazine, obviously agrees with the research findings. “...You can only walk down one road at a time, so walk down that road. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS,” says Fraser -- Chairman & CEO of FraserNet, Inc. -- when I interviewed him for my book, Tales of People Who Get It. When asked what his favorite quotation was, he added, "First things first, second things never." He recommends that individuals only focus on the first thing on their list, when they have completed the first task, cross it off and the second task actually becomes the first and so on.

Like Fraser, I do not believe in multitasking because when I do too many things simultaneously, I do none well. I try to focus on the task at hand. If I am listening to someone, they become the most important person in the world to me, so I focus on what they are saying. I learned this from my friend Julia Conn Watt, a former CEO of Tech Data Canada, a few months before she died from cancer of the adrenals. I always thought that I was an excellent listener, but in January 2003 Julia taught me that I could be a lot better. She also introduced me to the concept of mindfulness by way of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The Miracle of Mindfulness.

On that special day, while I was visiting Julia, I noticed that she focused on what I was saying. She hung on to my every word. At that moment, I felt like I was the most important person in Julia’s world. When I returned home from my visit, I accessed my mental filing cabinet to retrieve all files pertaining to Julia encounters, and I realized that every time I talked to her, she listened intently and focused on what I was saying. She never answered the phone while I was visiting, she was always focused on me.

I was humbled, and decided that I could be a better listener. I wrote Julia a letter telling her how I felt. I told her how much I appreciated having her in my life. And, most of all, I told her that I noticed how she focused on me when I was talking to her. Julia was grateful that I noticed what she did, and I felt good that I took the time to tell her, because she died two months later. Julia Conn Watt’s listening skills, and her ability to focus on one thing at a time, enabled her to be an excellent Chief Executive Officer.

How might you improve customer service if your most valuable customers felt like they were the most important people in your world? How might productivity improve if people focused on one task at a time, instead of splintering efforts among many tasks?

If you are not skilled at focusing, and would like to learn, here is a simple technique that I use:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Take a few deep breaths, breathing deeply into your lungs by flexing your diaphragm (you know that you are breathing deeply when your stomach pushes out when you are inhaling)
  3. With your eyes still closed, look upwards, and focus on the point between your eyebrows
  4. When you feel a slight pressure, start counting down slowly from ten to one. When you reach one, you are now in the alpha state

The Alpha Brainwave State, one of the four known brainwave states is where creativity occurs. Whenever you are in alpha you never worry. If you have to study for a test, process the contents of a manual, or want to remember large amounts of data, be sure to go into the alpha state before you begin. When you are ready to use the information, go into alpha again and you will retrieve/remember all the information that you studied and processed.

You may never rise to the ranks of Chief Executive Officer like Julia Conn Watt and George Fraser, but the ability to focus increases your efficiency and productivity and places you on the fast track to success. Stop multitasking and start focusing today.

Author's Bio: 

Avil Beckford, Chief Invisible Mentor, writer and researcher with over 15 years of experience is the published author of Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook Journey to Getting It. Subscribe to the Invisible Mentor Blog for great information to ignite your hidden genius, and explore the Resources page for free white papers and an e-book.