03 Jul Unitasking – How a Bad Concussion Made My Business Better
Or what I like to call, forced unitasking.
In late March of 2009 I had a freak skiing accident. I was launched like a lawn dart about 30 feet and landed on my noggin. Although I was wearing a helmet the recovery was still brutal and unpredictable…and lasted for a few months. During that time I suffered short term memory loss, had a recurrence of a previously resolved issue with PTSD and my balance was terrible. Along with all the other weird things that happen with a head injury, this was particularly difficult to manage for someone running their own business. Mostly recovered and looking back on this several years later, I’ve realized that this injury changed my working style forever. And for the better. I wouldn’t recommend it as a solution for you, but maybe you can learn from how a shot to the head turned me into a better marketer and a better business owner. Because of the injury, I was forced to stop multitasking..and learned the power of unitasking.
Ironically right about the same time as my accident there was a famous study at Stanford where researchers found that multitasking could actually impair cognitive function. This impairment was particularly critical where media was concerned. Subjects deemed as “low multitaskers” consistently performed better at tasks than the “high multitaskers.” Some of the tasks were as simple as determining if a number was even or odd, or a letter was a vowel or a consonant.
For me back then, there was no choice. The neurologist advised me to focus on one thing at a time. This was heresy for a person that loved to multitask. I believed the more plates I had spinning, the better. After my concussion if I tried to do that, I would forget half of what I had just done.
So I did what the doctor said and slowly and painfully, changed my work style. I scheduled one task at a time, I turned off my phone and email, and just focused on getting each task completed before I moved on to another. Oh it was a horrible process but unbelievably, I began to accomplish more in a few hours than I used to accomplish in a few days. And I left each day feeling as though I had really accomplished something. Pardon the overused word, but I was much more mindful.
Today, the management experts know that trying to do one thing at a time results in much stronger productivity. 1,690 people have even taken a free class “PRODUCTIVITY: How to Unitask and Double Your Productivity.” Still, it’s an incredibly hard transition and I find myself sliding back into multitasking on a regular basis. When that happens I can feel my brain becoming less sharp and even my energy level drops. It’s a great reminder to go back to what feels to me like plodding.
Maybe I’m just so stubborn life had to knock me on the head to learn all the things you guys already knew. I’m still thankful to the universe for showing me how a bad thing actually can be a GREAT thing in the long run. Hopefully I won’t need such a big lesson next time.