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Speed and Volume Don't Generally Mean Quality

Written by: Lorraine Twombly
Published: February 2010

In my early 20s I often received positive feedback, such as, "You are doing the work of two people!" and "You are really good at multi tasking!" I prided myself in the fact that I could do more than one task or quickly and efficiently do things at the speed of light. This speed lasted a couple of decades and I realized that there are choices I could make that would allow me to slow down a bit and really pay attention to what I loved most about being in the professional working world. It turns out, that it’s not about doing so many things in so little time and it's not all about how much money I can make if people see me as a hard-working employee. Although back in the day I was good at doing multiple things at once, I realized that burn-out was right around the corner.

multitasking imageHere it is 35 plus years later and I find myself constantly trying to focus on only one thing at a time. Why? So I can fully appreciate the scope and breadth of the project or goal or the conversation that needs my full attention. I've literally gone from the constant moving of accomplishments and career growth to slowing down and focusing on one thing at a time. Another reason why is because I found myself distracted during a phone conversation one afternoon and I got caught not knowing where the conversation was at. Luckily it was a friend of mine who brought it to my attention. I was really embarrassed and decided then and there that I would walk away from the work and concentrate on the conversation and it has helped me be a better communicator as well as do the good job that needs to be done.

As a business coach in my organization, it is very important to be engaged, recognize body language or voice inflections, and most of all to listen carefully and ask good questions. Being focused on one thing at a time has helped me to appreciate the creativeness of the work and when it comes to being engaged in conversations, focusing on one thing at a time is crucial to creating great relationships or getting to the root of issues or conflicts.

Now when I hear people talk about being good multi-taskers I ask then, “As a multi-tasker how often do you get to the level of excellence when doing your work or conversing with others?' Most will answer, "I need to in order to get all my work done, but the level of good work diminishes after a while when I feel like there's too much to do."

Here are some tips that have helped me and others throughout the years:

  • When at work and someone needs your attention, stop what you are doing and get ready to listen.
  • When you answer the phone, take your eyes off whatever it is you are reading or working on.
  • Try to work on one project at a time so you can reach your deadlines with minimal errors.
  • Plan your days and weeks so you don’t have to multi-task as much.
  • Make a conscience effort to focus on one thing at a time and see how that works for you!

I’d love to read any comments on this topic and I hope you will feel free to contact us...thanks for reading!

Lorraine Twombly

Lorraine Twombly