The blizzard of 2016 was big enough that we thought we’d better line up someone with a tractor to scrape our lane. At some point we’d want to get out and mix with our fellow citizens. Translation: we’d want to sit in front of the fireplace at Cracker Barrel and swap yarns with some of the locals. So we called our friend Ricky.
Ricky is a prince of a man, willing to help anyone in need. Besides, he has the best toys; he brought his new backhoe over. But Ricky managed to get his backhoe stuck! And, in the process of trying to extract himself — using some tricky maneuvers with the bucket and the backhoe arm at the same time — Ricky managed to run one of the tires off of the rim. It was a frustrating day for Ricky, and I really empathized.
As we were waiting for help to come, Ricky admitted what had happened. He had gotten a call on his cell phone and had answered it, just as he was approaching a culvert. He lost just enough focus so that he ran the backhoe into a deep ditch. And that’s when the troubles really got started.
I’ve been reflecting on what happened to Ricky. When I was younger, I prided myself on being a great multitasker. But now, I wouldn’t characterize myself that way. I wonder. Is that because 30 years ago the tasks I was juggling were simply less complicated? After all, the breadth of my responsibilities was much narrower when I was just starting out in my career. Or perhaps it is because 30 years ago I hadn’t accumulated so much history, experience, knowledge, and the detritus of life one collects through the years. It was easier to multitask with a relatively clean slate. And then there’s the reason I fear the most: that my old synapses just don’t fire as quickly as they used to and I’m no longer quite capable of multitasking the way I could when I was younger.
Whatever the reason, I’ve found that the ability to focus is increasingly important to me. I used to be proud of my ability to multitask. In hindsight, I wonder how effective I was. Was it possible I was a lot like Ricky today? I thought I could keep the backhoe on the road and answer the phone at the same time. But I couldn’t.
Here’s what I learned out in the blizzard today, waiting for a beached backhoe rescue:
So what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on focus and prioritization and lessons you may have learned from the 2016 blizzard.