Multiple Changes Require Fast Focus

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Mar 12

My article on using one dimensional solutions to multiple change issues don’t work became, perhaps not surprisingly, my most referred to article in the blog. And all I did was present a problem — no solution!

The point of the article was that trying to apply a “single process” to a single change doesn’t work when individuals today have multiple changes going on in their lives. Are you supposed to have a scorecard for which stage of change you are in on each of the twenty changes going on in your life? It doesn’t work.

Over the weekend, I did a lot of thinking about how to handle this incoming fire hose of change in a way that works.

If you break everything down about our work and lives, you can safely say two things:

  1. There will be multiple changes, events and issues going on in our lives all the time.
  2. It is impossible to multitask. The brain can only work on one thing at a time, even if it is for a very short period of time. I could go quote some credentialed person on that, but this proves the point: the people in your meeting working with their Blackberry aren’t engaged in your meeting, are they?

Given those two things, there is only one process that could work for dealing with and moving forward the multiple changes in our lives:

  • Put in an organizational system that allows you to focus on the task/work at hand
  • Complete one logical part of the work, whether it takes you two minutes or two hours to do
  • Then quickly re-focus on the next thing to be done using the system you have in place for your organizational work.

This all started with Anita Bruzzese and her great article Feeling Angry and Frustrated When Change Happens is Natural and my comment on the blog that said the solution offered was one dimensional, but we live in a multi-change-at-one-time world, so where’s the answer? It was, and is, an honest question.

In my article, I suggested that the closest thing I’ve seen to be able to handle multiple changes at once was through the Getting Things Done methodology as the organizational system that would allow us to focus and then re-focus on the next right thing to do.

After writing my article on multiple changes, Anita, being the great journalist she is, went out and interviewed Dr. Noelle Nelson, a psychologist, author, and seminar leader in her post today on The Challenge of Handling Multiple Changes. There are some very good insights in the article, including “getting past the moaning and the groaning, writing it down and knowing yourself.”

If you carefully look at Dr. Nelson’s thoughts, they all support the “focus on one thing, now re-focus on the next” process.

If you’re feeling out of control in handling the multiplicity of changes in your life, take a hard look at your organizational system for storing tasks and projects. Does it support an ability to focus on the task at hand? Does it support the ability to complete some part of the work and then quickly find the next “right” thing to be working? Does it allow you to quickly focus your attention on the next thing?

If we have multiple changes in our life going on all the time — and we do — and can only focus on one thing at a time, our effort should be toward building a system that works with those facts to help make us more productive.

What’s worked for you?

  • Dean says:

    Scot –

    In my experience there is no one simple answer to your question. Change at different times requires various kinds of focus and attention. I have found the GTD system to work pretty well … as long as I stick to the basics and, above all, see clarity on what it is I am trying to accomplish. I was just reading an article at 37 Signals about breaking down tasks into smaller elements … more manageable bites, if you will … and I think that may, for me, also be a key to making headway.

  • […] going on at once can’t be worked by a one dimensional solution. Plus, a follow-up article on Multiple Changes Require Fast Focus that attempts to provide some insight around what it would take to deal with the multiple […]

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