One of the things many leaders struggle with is the thought that they need to be accomplishing an unrealistic number of things at the same time. The fact of the matter is you can only do one thing at a time. You may switch from one thing to another very quickly, even by the second. However, the frequency with which you change tasks does not take away from the simple fact that you can still only do one thing at a time. To break it down into the simplest of terms:
You can do one thing well or two things badly.
Here are some everyday examples: “Listening” to an employee while you are typing out or reading an e-mail. Looking around the room while you are having a conversation with someone. Reading the paper or scanning Facebook or Instagram while your significant other is talking to you about something important to THEM. Talking on the cell phone while you are in the back yard or at the playground with your children. To wit, does your employee feel good about talking to the back of your head? Is your e-mail riddled with grammatical and spelling errors? How good are you making the person you are talking to feel as you scan the room for a better option? Do you think you are engaging your kids because you are there physically…but not emotionally?
The best leaders do one thing at a time. They listen to their employee and get back to the e-mail later or they ask their employee to wait a moment while they finish the e-mail. They give full attention to the person they are talking to and politely excuse themselves when it’s time to move on. They engage with their children rather than being satisfied simply to be in their physical presence.
It comes down to being in the moment. Recognizing what you are doing, or trying to accomplish, at THAT moment until you make the conscious decision to move to the next thing because you did the last thing well. How do we practice being in the moment?
TAKE AN ICE BATH!!!
I am an avid and enthusiastic practitioner of the Wim Hof Method. One aspect of this method involves exposure to the cold, like an ice bath. As Wim Hof likes to say, the cold is merciless, but righteous. No truer words were ever spoken. When you step into the ice bath you must be wholly focused on your mind set and breathing. If you are not you will not be able to get comfortable or spend any significant amount of time in the ice. If, however, you are focused on your mind set and breathing…if you are IN THE MOMENT…you will be able to get comfortable, remain calm, and spend a significant amount of time in the cold.
Is the ice bath a metaphor for being in the moment in life? No. It’s a reality. When you can get to a calm, comfortable place in an ice bath because you are focused on only what you are doing in that moment, suddenly it isn’t so hard to recognize when you are “multi-tasking” and doing two, or more, things badly.
By the way, it’s hard to do. Welcome to leadership!
Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.