Many of us think we can multitask. We're proud of how many things we can juggle at once. But the reality is most of us are not good at multitasking. According to a study at the University of Utah, only 2.5% of people can multitask effectively. So what are we doing when we juggle many tasks at once? Usually messing up several of them, or at least performing them sub-optimally. Switching tasks requires transition time - time to get back into a specific task and mentally release the previous task. In essence, multitasking is a highly inefficient technique.
In the most famous study about focus and intensity called "The Invisible Gorilla", Harvard researchers created a video that requires viewers to focus on two groups of people passing a basketball and task the viewer with counting the passes of one group. Most viewers can successfully follow the action and arrive at the correct count, but miss something remarkable - a gorilla walking through the action. Viewers are so preoccupied with the task at hand, they miss something right in front of them. Why? They are focused on a singular task. The more focused they are, the less they can manage or process outside the task.
In a startup, you will be tempted to do too many things. If you succumb to this urge, the result is usually failure on multiple fronts. Yes, you will need to do many tasks and activities, but try to carve out discreet time for each task rather than trying to do them at the same time. And focus. When you are working on a problem or activity, give it undivided attention for the duration of allotted time. You will be amazed at your productivity and quality of your results.
In many respects, this concept of singular focus is at the core of another popular methodology described in the Lean Startup by Eric Reis. Eric is a brilliant person who has identified and perfected a very different, counter-intuitive method for improving startup success. One of the concepts is to focus on a key assumption, test it quickly, and refine or pivot. You cannot test multiple assumptions simultaneously and properly learn. And if you try, you will miss "The Invisible Gorilla" - you will miss the obvious. Do one thing, do it right, and it will feel like you are the best multitasker in the world based on how much you will get accomplished.