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Lego Building, Focus Maintaining, and why Multi-tasking is Overrated

Lego CastleThis is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

I remember my 6th birthday like it was yesterday. And I don’t remember a whole lot from my early years so that’s saying a lot. Entering into my 6th year – I had a party at the local bowling alley – you know, back in the day when Bowling was actually fun and they’d put up the bumpers for you. And at that party – every single guest…every one, got me Legos. Lego castles, Lego pirate ship, Lego cowboys…one great big Lego paradise.

Except for one girl, Leah – who got me a Batman toy: A cardinal sin at this birthday party. Age 5 was Ninja Turtles, age 7 was Ninja Turtles, but age 6 was all Legos all day – So needless to say Batman got taken back to Toys R Us the next day for, yep…you guessed it, more Legos.

You see, I loved Legos – I loved meticulously building the scenes for hours – laying out these epic battles and then tearing everything apart, only to put everything back together again. It was my love, my life, my passion (at least until I got a Nintendo).

Back to the simple life

When we’re kids – life is so simple – we develop this one track mind and nothing else matters. Food, sleep, bathroom – these were all secondary for me to the primary goal of getting more Legos.

As we grow older, things change, responsibilities add up, and we lose track of that focus – we think about the million things we have to do and forget about the most important things – the one or two true PASSIONS that drive us to be at our best.

So what’s the point of this ridiculous/awesome Lego example? Well, one, to give you a funny story to relate to because, who are we kidding, you were right there next to me when you were six – but secondly, and maybe more importantly, to tell you that multi-tasking is overrated.

Yes, I said it – that one quality we all mention during the interview – “being a good multi-tasker” – may not be such a good thing. Instead of constantly worrying about doing a million things at once, maybe it’s time that we (you) start focusing on one thing at a time.

How focused are you?

Sure, when I was a kid I could have played with my Legos while eating a Happy Meal while watching Aladdin while playing dress up while eating ice cream. And no doubt I did all of those things at once many times – but when I was most content was when I could really devote all of my attention to one thing.

The same goes for today – when I’m writing a blog post – I get offline, I turn off Tweetdeck, close email, get away from the TV, and devote all of my attention to writing a post from start to finish. It’s just one example of MANY that can be applied to nearly everything you do both personally and professionally.

Focus on one project at a time at work, when you’re with your significant other, stay off your Iphone and give him or her your full undivided attention. Odds are, when you give up the constant multi-tasking approach and start focusing on one thing at a time, you’ll be happier, more productive, and everyone else around you will appreciate your willingness to devote your FULL attention span to them. Trust me, it means a lot – and people can tell when you’re not really “there”.

So go ahead and build your epic Lego castle battle scene – Aladdin and your six-piece Chicken McNugget will be right there waiting when you’re ready…

What do you think? Is multitasking overrated? How do you balance focusing on one thing at a time and juggling a million things at once? When are you most productive?

{ 23 comments… add one }

  • Tim Jahn February 4, 2010, 9:23 am

    Legos were the ABSOLUTE best. Like you, I'd spend hours building who knows what. I've always thought Legos were the ultimate way to kids to really be creative.

    I'm not sure multitasking is overrated, but I think it's only appropriate for certain situations. Your example of writing a blog post probably becomes more productive when you're not multitasking, as you explained.

    But a mother of three doing the laundry, working on online college classes, and getting dinner ready for the family? I think multitasking is a godsend for her.

    I'll admit, when it comes to working on things, focusing on one thing at a time is something I need to work on. It's tough with all the distractions/channels of communications available to us these days. But in the end, it's my own fault for not focusing when I need to be.

    Great post Matt! You had me at Legos…

  • Jackie Adkins February 4, 2010, 9:52 am

    Matt, great post and thanks for making The Curbside Marketer one of the stops on your tour!

    It's fun to see how many of us were all about some legos as kids (not going to lie, I was at my friend's house who has kids last week and I started playing with their legos).

    In terms of multitasking, it's definitely an important (almost crucial) skill to have in the fast paced work environment today, and I'll say that, at times, I'm a multitasking fiend. On the other hand, it's equally important to know when to set the multiasking aside and get in the zone. Ever since I've started closing Tweetdeck and e-mail when I need to buckle down and get something done, I've been amazed at how much more productive I can become.

    Great thoughts, Matt!

  • ryanstephens February 4, 2010, 11:04 am

    I would just like to note that bowling is STILL fun.

  • Jackie Adkins February 4, 2010, 11:21 am

    Thanks for your insightful comment, Ryan :)

    And yes, if anyone says bowling is no longer fun, then they should be escorted away from this blog immediately.

  • Bryan Cromlish February 4, 2010, 1:02 pm

    LEGO is hands down the greatest toy ever invented. It lets kids be kids, they get to chose their own adventure — unlike many of the toys today where you have to be the set character portrayed in a TV show.

    I always remember the scuba guys coming to the rescue on the cowboy ranch. Made sense at the time.

    Anyways, into the deeper point of this post. Just because you can multi-task, does not mean you should. Doing too many tasks at once just leads to an overall half-a**ed job.

    There is a big difference between multi-tasking skills and task management. The ladder is very important, knowing when to start and juggle tasks with importance vs due date. Once you have chosen a task to work on/complete — I agree it should get your full attention.

  • laurenfernandez February 4, 2010, 3:28 pm

    Honestly: I've never been able to focus on one specific task. I multi-task because I've always been super involved and going 100 mph. Even when I'm writing a post, I'm listening to music, checking e-mail, reading new articles, etc.

    I LOVED Legos as a kid – but I was always wearing my tiara. Princess Lauren was boss and I would get distracted by pretending to be Rainbow Brite. Or a ninja. I was a ball of energy and still am.

    It's hard for me not to balance and time manage – I can get a lot done all at once, and find that many Type A's are the same.

  • EllenNordahl February 4, 2010, 3:33 pm

    LEGOS were often the highlight of my childhood birthday parties too – the best involved a trip to Mall of America to go to Camp Snoopy and cap off the day with a massive LEGO set of my choosing. Awesome.

    You're right about being completely focused when it came time for Legos – nothing else really mattered. I'd hole up in my room and promptly assemble my newest set. I didn't let anything get in my way – not even a younger sister who was hell-bent on destruction.

    I think there are times that call for multi-tasking, but we need to realize that we don't need to be doing everything all at once all the time. Some things (like blogging) are best done with minimal distraction.

    We should all reignite what we felt for Legos as kids, and make time in our lives to focus on something simple and unrelated to work that makes us happy.

  • Bryan Cromlish February 4, 2010, 3:53 pm

    This is a nice compliment to your blog post Lauren: http://www.laurenafernandez.com/blog/assess-you

    This whole notion of Time Management / Multi-Tasking — Accomplishing goals would be a great U30pro Chat.

  • Tim Jahn February 4, 2010, 4:02 pm

    Most definitely. Even if awesomeness in Wii bowling doesn't translate to awesomeness in real bowling…heh ;)

  • Tim Jahn February 4, 2010, 4:03 pm

    Most definitely. Even if awesomeness in Wii bowling doesn't translate to awesomeness in real bowling…heh ;)

  • Tim Jahn February 4, 2010, 4:04 pm

    This is how I am too, and it can be tough. I do feel that at times, that going 100mph is actually hindering productivity for me.

    But at the same time, I'm the type of person that loves having a lot going on. I have trouble just sitting still!

  • TotallyHeather February 4, 2010, 5:03 pm

    Legos were the best. What am I talking about? They still are! At 23 I got Legos this past Christmas. I totally made a horse and a house. Even if my horse did have green hair.

    Multi-tasking, like everything else, has it's place and time. I don't feel like typing out any examples because I'm on my phone and I hate it.

    But I did decide to comment because I was scrolling through Twitter and matt's tweet about Legos stood out. And I thought, “I totally love Legos!”

    and I could have left a brief explanation now that I've typed this much….

  • Kristin Steed February 4, 2010, 6:12 pm

    It makes me think of the good old days playing with Barbie Dolls and at first I agreed with the post on how we focused on the toy at hand. But then I realized most of the time I spent with my Barbie Dolls there was a lot of cross – toy playing. For some reason my Barbie Dolls always ended up playing with my Care Bears, while my coloring books were scattered all over the floor with every color crayon imaginable.

    After reading Lauren’s comment, it makes me wonder how different personality types and maybe even genders play a part in our need to multi task and who does it better.

    I definitely think there is a time and place for focusing on the task at hand, especially if you have a project deadline coming up or as you said, spending time with your loved one. But as full time working professional, part time MBA student and newlywed sometimes not multi-tasking just isn’t an option even when I would like it to be!

    Excellent post!

  • Matt Cheuvront February 4, 2010, 9:24 pm

    Haha I think this tour is just going to continue on forever…But really great to finally be stopping by the Curb (love what you've done with the place, by the way). To the point, it really is amazing what you can accomplish once you focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is important, but focus should never be overlooked. Thanks again for having me buddy – heck of a trip down memory lane.

  • Matt Cheuvront February 4, 2010, 9:25 pm

    If there's beer involved, I'll still consider.

  • Matt Cheuvront February 4, 2010, 9:27 pm

    Haha yes! The astronaut would usually come save the princess of the castle and then fly back to the Wild West. Somehow…it all made perfect sense. Thanks for the comment!

  • Matt Cheuvront February 4, 2010, 9:29 pm

    Agreed Lauren, I'm that type of personality too – but I've REALLY tried to shut everything down from time to time and focus – especially with writing posts lately – and it's really boosted my productivity. But most of the time, I have 50 million windows open, music blasting, watching TV, all while doing a million things at once. Some habits will never change…

  • Matt Cheuvront February 4, 2010, 9:34 pm

    I really think the best writing, or at least my best writing comes when I can really focus – not only is the quality better – I get things done much, much faster. I know everyone's different but I still side with the fact that multi-tasking is vastly overrated. Thanks for the comment!

  • Matt Cheuvront February 4, 2010, 9:35 pm

    Yes, agreed, Legos are still super-awesome, even today. No shame in admitting that :)

  • Tim Jahn February 4, 2010, 11:45 pm

    Like a Stella??? :)

  • bethcoetzee February 24, 2010, 4:00 pm

    A couple of months ago I turned off the preview window on Outlook so as emails come in they don't send me off chasing squirrels. Great decision – I won't look back.

    I have to monitor myself very carefully as I have a tendency to multitask and, like Tim, I think the quality of my work improves when I don't. Matt, I'm glad you also mention giving full attention to your spouse, etc. I think about that with my son. If I give him half-mind he just demands my attention until I give it and I'm usually angry by the time I do. If, instead, I stop and focus on him entirely he's usually ready to move on to other entertainment within a few short minutes. Our furlough days gave me occasion to consider these ideas a while back: http://potluckmama.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/fur

  • bethcoetzee February 24, 2010, 9:00 pm

    A couple of months ago I turned off the preview window on Outlook so as emails come in they don't send me off chasing squirrels. Great decision – I won't look back.

    I have to monitor myself very carefully as I have a tendency to multitask and, like Tim, I think the quality of my work improves when I don't. Matt, I'm glad you also mention giving full attention to your spouse, etc. I think about that with my son. If I give him half-mind he just demands my attention until I give it and I'm usually angry by the time I do. If, instead, I stop and focus on him entirely he's usually ready to move on to other entertainment within a few short minutes. Our furlough days gave me occasion to consider these ideas a while back: http://potluckmama.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/fur

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