Is Multitasking Killing Your Success?

This month on the Investor Insights, we’re discussing the role of goals and planning in your real estate investing business. And I have a question for you – is multitasking killing your success?

Think about it for a moment. Are you really accomplishing anything when you’re trying to do three things at once? No, you’re not as efficient and you’re likely to forget where you were.

Another question for you – Do you always find yourself starting tasks but never finishing them? This trait is almost a way of life for new business owners and it might be the reason that most businesses fail in the first year.

Craig Jarrow, author of the book Time Management Ninja, wrote a blog post this past week on the art of finishing what you start. He sums up the power of focus in one simple statement: “Lots of people come up with great business ideas. Few people actually make a business a success.”

That’s powerful stuff. To be successful you have to know how to finish what you started. Throughout 2011, I’ve focused on giving Insights readers tips on getting started in the business. But crossing the finish line on your goals is the real success indicator in this and in any business.

Let’s talk about steps you can take toward focusing more on the single task at hand for better productivity and more success.

Get it all out of your head. This focus tool was made famous by David Allen, author of the bestselling book Getting Things Done. His principle is simple – when you get all of the data out of your head you can actually focus on what you’re doing. There’s science to back this up. In a recent Daily Beast article, Joanne Cantor, author of Conquer Cyber Overload, says that the brain’s working memory is limited to seven items at any given time. She says that when we have more than seven bits of info “in our brain’s inbox, the brain struggles to figure out what to keep and what to disregard.”

Turn off the distractions. Smartphones started killing off more of our brain cells when the developers introduced multitasking. You can listen to your music, read your email and get texts all at the same time! It’s great, wonderful and making us a bunch of zombies.

Recently, we’ve seen a number of reports about how the smartphone, social media, email, etc. are hurting our attention spans. It seems we’re all suffering from a form of ADD and chronic stress.

What can you do to minimize this stress? Focus on what you’re doing. Turn off the phone alerts. Unless you’re waiting on an urgent phone call or email, the messages can wait until your planned time for processing them.

Process your info at scheduled intervals. You do have to deal with your emails, your voicemails, Twitter feed, etc. But you need to it at regularly scheduled intervals. Allen recommends that you empty your collection tools on a daily basis. Your collection tools can be your email inbox, your desktop tray or your smartphone notepad. Making a decision on what to do with each item helps you stay organized and focused. Don’t try to do all things at once. It won’t work, but putting a purpose with the info does. Putting 10 minutes on the calendar every hour can help with this.

Distinguish between projects and tasks. Projects and tasks are different. Steven Slaunwhite, author of The Wealthy Freelancer, distinguishes a task as something takes less than 20 minutes and a project as something that takes multiple work sessions. For large projects, such as planning your investment strategy, he recommends that you work in “50-minute focus sessions.” All you do for 50 minutes is focus on your project.

Focusing on what you’re doing and minimizing the distractions is going to help you make that forward progress in realizing your REI dreams. Stay tuned this month for more tips on how to be focused, productive and successful in the coming year.


  1. Great write-up, Susan! I definitely agree. I think it’s the small things and the little distractions that can add up and make folks unproductive. Personally, I’ve learned to train my brain to turn off the distractions. One of the things that can really bog me down is admin work. So, I’ve actually dedicated one day per week for it. And, the rest of the week – I dedicate myself to field work which is more productive work for me. Nowadays, I keep things simple and jot down the most important things I need to do for that day – think I learned this through Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek.” And, it’s definitely helped. I enjoyed this post, I may have to check out those books you mentioned – thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Susan, this couldn’t have been written better! I am completely guilty of mismanageing my time and as a result have let lots of good ideas slip by or gather dust. I need to turn off the distractions and turn on the motivation.



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