Have you ever found yourself focusing on too many things at once? If so, you are not alone. In my recent book, Get it Scheduled, I discussed this topic.
Only about 2 percent of the world’s population can effectively multitask, and it’s safe to say you are not one of those people. When we multitask, we take shortcuts because we’re thinking about other things that do not involve what we’re working on at that moment. In his moral letters to his friend Lucilius Junior, Seneca wrote:
“He who is everywhere is nowhere.”
Meaning it is impossible to focus on more than one thing at a time.
This quote resonated with me when I first read it. I have it tattooed on my left forearm as a daily reminder. Whenever I am feeling off track, I look down and ask myself these questions:
- Am I focusing on too many things?
- Is my mind in the past or the present?
- Am I ‘thinking’ about too many things?
Multitasking is an internal and external issue. In other words, you can’t be at the office while thinking about what’s happening at home. Conversely, you shouldn’t be at home while thinking about what is happening at the office. Are both places important? Absolutely. But your mind cannot operate in both areas simultaneously.
Am I focusing on too many things?
Are you working on a critical Excel document while answering emails at the same time? Even if you’re great at using Excel, the odds of you making a mistake will increase if you bounce back and forth between writing an Excel formula and responding to an email, especially since they’re two separate topics. Just because you can respond to the email doesn’t mean you need to respond immediately. Schedule a time for that so you can focus on the current task.
Is my mind in the past or the present?
Consider this: you can’t grab today’s opportunities if you are still holding yesterday’s adversity. Is your past important? Yes, because it is what you use to learn from: good and bad experiences. However, you can’t stay there. Once time is gone, you never get it back. In his private notes, Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Time is like a river made up the events which happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too.”
Am I ‘thinking’ about too many things?
A few months ago, I listened to a powerful Dr. Phil (Phil in the Blanks) podcast where he talked about multitasking. He framed it this way: Ok, Doc, I listed to you. I turned off the stereo, turned off the television, got the kids out of the room, and stopped multitasking. No, you didn’t. You stopped external distractions, but you didn’t unclutter your mind. You kept thinking about five different things at one time.
For additional information about this topic, check out my latest book, Get it Scheduled. It can be found on Amazon and will be available on Kindle soon.
Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and satirist from the post-Augustan age of Latin literature. His lasting contribution to philosophy has been to the school of Stoicism.
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman empower from AD 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emporers and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire.
2 comments on “Stop Multitasking: He who is everywhere is nowhere”
This is a constant challenge of mine, especially in the age of social media and constant alerts. I love your exploration of Stoicism, as I’m very partial to this philosophy as well. Thanks for sharing!
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Thanks for the feedback, Stuart. Have a great week.