Confirming: You’re not an octopus.
top performers do less and we should too
You may have heard multi-tasking is out. Tackling too much can reduce productivity by up to 40% according to some studies.
So now what? How do we retract our tentacles while doing amazing work?
According to performance researcher Morten T. Hansen, the answer is two part: 1) Have fewer goals and 2) Obsess over the details of whatever you do tackle.
Hansen and his team studied 5,000 people deemed outstanding in various fields according to their managers and peers.
In his book, “Great at Work: How top performers do less, work better and achieve more,” he explains that highly successful people not only take on fewer tasks, they obsess over every detail of a project.
That second part is key. While refusing to multi-task will indeed boost your performance, to really hit it out of the park, you can’t stop there. You’ll need to dive in and blow the lid off each goal.
Let’s debunk some myths about doing great work, according to Hanson’s studies.
If I manage a lot of projects, I’ll look like a go-getter and make myself super valuable.
Or not. In fact, most likely not. You could end up falling for what Hansen calls the “Complexity Trap.” We’ll cover that in more detail in our next article. The idea is that trying to switch between different priorities, takes mental energy—and more time than we want to believe.
Similarly, breaking a project into a million parts (so you can track milestones, check metrics, refine your policy . . . meet again to review those milestones, etc.) will stall your progress.
Look instead for how you can set a single, simple goal and go for it.
If I try to please every customer, I’ll rock my job.
Negative on that, captain. According to the research, this approach will fail if it means working with too many customers at once, especially if they require different skill sets.
If you’re saying yes to everything, you could fall for the “Spread Too Thin Trap.”
You’ll lose time on low value projects at which you may not even excel. It’s better to pick a focus area, master your skill, become known for it and attempt to land the best customers—or take on the best projects—within that area of expertise.
So in a nutshell, if you want to rock your work—or anything really:
Don’t get pulled in a million directions
Know your strengths
Hone a specific skillset like crazy
Give all your energy to a few high value projects and hit those out of the park
Crush the details
If you’re a recovering multitasker like us, it may take practice. We’re working on it, one tentacle at a time.