“You must be single-minded. Drive
for the one thing on which you have decided.”
–George S. Patton Jr.
U.S. Army General
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big multi-tasker. This is especially true at work. When I get in each morning, I look at my calendar of to do’s, and as soon as I get started on one task, my email beeps, and I take on something else. Next, my assistant reminds me of an article or email I need to write, so I start that as well. Then a client asks for something, and before long, I’m doing five things at once. The next thing I know, it’s 5 P.M., and I haven’t done any of my follow up calls, let alone prospecting. If you’re like many other professionals I know, you can probably relate.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking multi-tasking. In some applications, like straightening up my office or gardening, it’s great. But I learned a long time ago that in business – or any other major endeavor – having singleness of focus is crucial to being ultra-successful and accomplishing the goal that is going to give my life the most impact. And anytime I forget this, I pay for it. For example:
In my business as a consultant, I get approached by other companies and people all the time to resell or become a side vendor for their product or service. Years ago, I would divert my attention lots of times and plunge in, thinking I could develop another source of revenue for my consulting practice. Instead, what almost always happened is the moment I took my absolute focus off my core business – consulting and training – my income and the growth of my practice suffered.
A specific example of this is a company and service I love and still use called Send Out Cards. Some of you may know that it’s a direct marketing company (multi-level marketing), that creates and sends out customized greeting cards and gifts. When I was introduced to SOC, I knew at once what a great asset it would be for my business. It allowed me to create a customized campaign of cards that keeps me top of mind for prospects of my business. I signed up and started using it immediately (and still do).
When I signed up though, I also signed up as a distributor. Because I had a list of thousands of other business people who would benefit from using cards to keep them top of mind as well, it was a no-brainer that I become a reseller. So I plunged in. I spent time giving webinars every month, answered countless emails, had phone conferences and training sessions. My goal was to build a substantial downline and then sit back as thousands of dollars rolled in in residual income.
What happened was very different. As I took my attention and energy off my consulting business, my prospects dried up and my income went down. Soon, I was pulled in two different directions, and I wasn’t making much money from either of them! I realized that I needed to get back to my core business, and that I needed to put my sole focus on it. I did that, and after a few months, my prospect list was full, and I was booking lots of business again. What I learned is what General Patton is talking about in this quote: Pick one thing and focus and drive towards it. If you do, you’ll be successful at it.
I can point to countless examples of how important singleness of focus is: concentrating on school full time; committing to being a top producer when I was in sales; becoming a world class consultant/trainer in inside sales. Whenever I focus on just one thing – full time – I succeed quickly at it. Whenever I try to multi-task, however, or do two or three things at once, they all suffer, and I don’t make much progress.
I’ll end with Brian Tracy’s advice on goal setting: Make a list of ten super important goals for the next 12 months. After you have, look at that list and identify the one that, if you were to accomplish it, would have the greatest impact on your life and your future. Once you have identified it, throw the other nine away and concentrate, 100%, on the one goal that will mean the most for your life.
Just remember, multi-tasking is great for somethings, but for the big things, the life changing things, singleness of focus is the key to success.