MAINTAINING FOCUS AT WORK


I recently  went on a rant against the idea of multitasking. There I said that multitasking was a waste of time and energy. I said that ardent applicants answering an advertisement where an unenlightened employer mistakenly called for a multitasker might do well to lie a little on their resumes  by writing the following bulleted statement on their resumes:

  • Possess an ability to multitask while maintaining a sense of focus

That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? In one statement you tell the employer what they think they want while offering up something they really need but never asked for. The applicant would be the perfect employee on paper – able to anticipate the boss’ needs before they’re even spelled out.

Now it’s time to throw caution to the wind.  How can you prove that you are able to maintain  a sense of focus in an interview?

1. Tell them you’re a great time manager

Multitasking means answering phone calls, texts and live messaging and flipping between Internet while trying to get that important task accomplished.

  • Set up a time (20 minutes) to break down the task into sub-tasks that can be accomplished in 20 minute intervals
  • Take a 5 minute break to answer those telephone calls that would have been interruptions
  • Take 20 minutes to handle the first task
  • Take another 5 minute task

This technique has been formalized with special paper and a timer in a system called the POMODORO TECHNIQUE. As a fitness instructor, I often teach classes in an interval style where I have my  class do a warm-up then intense cardio, then pause for a weight training interval, then more cardio, then more strength, then cardio, strength and warm-down. This type of class has good fitness benefits – especially in terms of calorie burning. When applied to the workplace, it can help you get the job done.

2. Block out time to review all the critical tasks that need to be done.

Nothing can slow your career progress down faster that getting a task done too late –especially when that task is the year-end statistical/financial reports that are due. Take time to review whether your work is on schedule. It’s better to do this than having fear guide you at a later date.

3. If you fly, work on the airplane.

With no distractions, the roar of the engines, and only 20 square inches of work surface, you may find an excellent opportunity to focus on that single task. Mark Shead (2010) writes that one hour of work on a plane is equal to 3 hours in the office (http://www.productivity501.com/productive-airplane-rides/7720/) When I was a world-famous archaeologist, I used to try to get tasks done on the Queen of Esquimalt Ferry to Victoria. It didn’t work. I always spilled my coffee over my artefact forms.

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a  fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net   or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca.

If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates

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2 Responses to “MAINTAINING FOCUS AT WORK”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Mike, another relevant post written with your usual humor. I like that “spilling coffee” line. Sounds like me.
    My last “career” job was a horror this way. I was the training officer which meant I had to develop manuals as well as schedule and corrdinate training programs for the many nurses and safety engineer with whom I worked. I would have one program’s manuals completed and the trainer would run in and say, “HIPPA changed the rule on…” we have to rework chapters 5,6 and 7. for tomorrow’s program. Aaaaargh!!

  2. mikebroderick Says:

    There’s always someone who wants to help stir the stew, isn’t there?
    Thanks for the comment!

    …/Mike

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