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Do just one thing

Last week I attended a conference for communication directors. It was the first live event of its type that I've been to for several years. It reminded me of the joy of meeting people in person. Of course, Zoom events and communicating with people remotely has been very valuable. But there is no substitute for chance meetings by the coffee machine to connect and find out where they're from, and what they’re getting from the event.

The conference itself was a rather different mix. Some professional subject matter and a lot more about our behaviour; and the importance of understanding what's going on in our own heads. From the professor and author of the Chimp Paradox, a discussion about the brain and how we're all wired for flight or fight and the need for learned behaviour and repetition to change our habits.

Next came a fighter pilot who urged us to just doing one thing at a time. I can certainly see the sense in that whilst piloting a plane. But it goes further than that; apparently multitasking, even if you're female, wastes up to two hours a day. To really focus will be extremely difficult for many of the delegates at the conference to put into practice. Communications is a notoriously reactive function where the issue comes to you at the last minute, by which time it's become a crisis. Saying “thank you for the information I'm currently focusing on X and will get back to you in two or three hours”, probably isn't going to cut it. That aside, it is a good challenge: how many things really are that time critical?

Taking this learning on board, for the rest of this week, I will try to avoid the distraction of text messages or emails coming in when something else is going on. I will take time to focus and see if that brings a better quality of thinking and more productivity.

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