Multitasking vs. Multi-thinking

Do you multitask to save time?

Multitasking can be great to save time. It can even increase energy when used well.

But if you confuse multi-thinking with multitasking you will waste time and increase stress.

Multitasking works well when you combine something that can be done automatically, i.e. without thinking, with something that requires your attention.

You can for instance use your commute time for more than transporting yourself; by reading on the bus or listening to a podcast in your car.

This type of multitasking can also be used to compensate something you may not enjoy that much with something that makes you happy. Like singing while vacuum cleaning.

This type of multitasking can save you time and increase your energy.

Multi-thinking on the other hand, is when we try to combine two or more things that require our attention. Instead of doing two things well, we will end up doing two or more things poorly. 
Woman cooking and talking on the phone. 
Photo by James Cook Media

Like participating in a brainstorm meeting at work and answering mails at the same time. 

Or talking to your child about how her day at school was while paying your bills.

Not only are you fooling yourself about the time saving part. You are not saving time when you shift your focus back and forth, back and forth. Interrupted focus is not only inefficient, it also makes you feel stressed.

You will have a hard time finishing things, especially finishing things in a way that is satisfying.

And trust me, people, especially children, notice the difference between your full and caring attention and distracted, half hearted conversation.

To get things done and be truly present in your life, combine activities you can do without thinking but focus your attention on one thing (or person!) at the time.
 In other words: multitask, don't multi-think.  


Maybe your salary is not your fault

“What’s up?” Victor looked at Manda, surprised about his colleague’s uncharacteristic frown.

She sat down heavily, even though she was a small woman.

“I just had my yearly salary talk. Every time I feel like I am being cheated, and I wonder if I am getting less because I am a woman.”

“Why would you be getting less? You are great at what you do.” He sat down opposite to her.
“Ever heard about the salary gap between men and women? Why would I be an exception?”
“Well, I wouldn’t care about statistics. Just make sure you ask for more. For as much as you are worth. Women should stand up for themselves. Be tougher.”
She scuffed.
“Remember the time you borrowed my car and drove it into a ditch?”
He grimaced.
“How can I possibly forget? You keep reminding me. I am telling you, there was something wrong with the steering wheel.”
“I know.”
“You know? You knew? All this time ...”
She stood up, arms crossed over her chest.
“But you know what, instead of fixing the problem, I expect everyone who drives my car to adapt to it.”
He was about to say something, but she was faster:
“You know, just be tough enough to steer it anyway.”

Iceland is rolling out the world’s toughest equal pay legislation. Prime minister Katrin Jakosdottir says that telling women they “just have to ask for more” is not the solution.
“You can’t place all responsibility for a structural change on the individual.”
Next time you tell a woman she “should” ask for more or stand up for herself, think about how you can be part of the needed structural change. 


Old and New in beautiful harmony

"There's a symbiosis of high-tech and traditional artisanship in every component."
Fernando Villa, Sagrada Familia's director of operations

When organizations introduce something new, they often throw out the old a bit too quickly.

Like organizations going agile and losing a lot of their leaders in the process. Not missing them until they are gone.

Or organizations removing assistants, counting on automated systems to do the work better and faster.

Or conference rooms getting high-tech equipment with overcomplicated user interfaces, leaving people looking for the standard projectors only to find they have already been removed.

Progress is fantastic. Digitalization can increase efficiency multifold and AI can complement us so we can focus on the human side of things.

When we find ways of using what we do well with the new and different, we can really be productive and create greatness.

Like the building of the already magnificent Sagrada Familia


Who do you want to be?

“Forget it mum, I am just no good at maths.” He put his head in his hands, one elbow on each side of the book.

With lifted eyebrows she looked at her teenaged son, sitting next to her at the kitchen table.

“What do you mean, no good at maths?”

He leaned back, shrugged.

“I am a person who is good with words, with languages, but I am no good at maths.”


He looked at her, frowning. She behaved as if she hadn’t seen his grades.


“Could it possibly be that you see yourself as someone who is good at languages, and then you do what people who are good at languages do, and then you get great results?”

“Mum, it’s not that sim...”

“And you define yourself as someone who is not good at maths, you stop liking it and start getting poor results.“

“Mum, it's not about how I define myself.”

She put her hand on top of his.

“Oh yes sweetheart. It's all about who you think you are.”

Photo by Kaboompic.com from Pexels

White house chief of staff John Kelly explained why he stayed for 17 months in what he called a “bone-crushing hard job” by saying: “Military people don’t walk away.”

Once you define yourself as someone or something, your actions will become evident.

This goes for both “good” and “bad” behaviours.

I have clients who call themselves lazy. Or who say they are unstructured. Others say they are procrastinators.

The first thing I tell them is to re-define who they are.
When you define yourself the way you want to be, rather than as a limited version of you, the actions will follow.

It’s not what you do.

It’s who you are.


Hard work doesn’t always pay off

“I am sorry. I really don’t know why we didn’t make it. We did everything we could, everyone has worked so hard…” her voice trailed off. Steven looked up at the most senior project manager the company had. She was standing by the window in his office, hunched over, no sign of the energy that normally radiated from her tall figure. 

He put down his reading glasses. Knew how she hated when he was acting fatherly, so he resisted the urge to get up from behind his desk and pat her on the shoulder.

“I take it this is your first project that didn’t deliver as planned?”

She turned toward him.

“Of course. I have never failed before. I don’t understand how we could miss the deadline, and I really don’t understand how the competition could make it on time. I don’t get it. We did everything right; better than in previous projects in some aspects but… this time it wasn’t enough.” She looked at her shoes, black with red tips.

Now he couldn’t stop himself from getting up, so he did, and he put his hand on her shoulder.

Photo by Felipe Cespedes from Pexels

“Let me tell you a secret.” She looked at him, wondering why he was whispering like a child. 
“Sometimes even winners lose. You can do everything right and still fail. You can give it all you’ve got and the results will still not be as expected.”

She swallowed hard. He walked back to his desk, quoting Rachel Simmons:

“The humbling, brutal, messy reality is that you can do everything in your power and still fail.”

Many of my clients beat themselves up when they don’t achieve all their goals. They think that hard work always pays off. The truth is - sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

Holistic Time Management tip:

 Instead of beating yourself up when things don’t go your way, remember that obstacles are really just detours in the right direction.


The stairway to heaven is not a stairway

“But I am not ready!” Nora looked at her boss, her eyes wide, her heart pounding.

“Ready?” Her boss looked at her over the round glasses. “What is ready?”

Nora looked back with an annoyed frown.
“Well, you know, I thought I would lead one of the smaller projects first, before taking on a project of this size.”

Her boss smiled, looking more like a wise old owl than usual.

“It would be nice, wouldn’t it? If your big goal would sit nicely on top of a stairway, waiting for you to climb there, one step at a time. With enough time on each step to get used to the altitude.”

Nora plucked with her scarf, not knowing what to say.

“The thing is”, her boss continued, “that there is no such thing as being ready. And there is definitely no such thing as an opportunity showing up exactly when you think you are ready. The road to success is not like walking stairs. Some stairs are missing. Sometimes you miss the stair. Actually, it is more like walking in the mist. You only see the first few steps of your journey. The other steps will not be clear until you get there.”

Nora cleared her throat.

“But, what if I… you know, fail?”

“You won’t. You’ll do your best and you will get help when you need it. You see, if you want to wait until the mist clears, you will notice that whatever you are looking for has moved by the time you get there.”

“So, what do I…”

“You start walking and trust that you will find your way. Or, in this case, just take the role I am asking you to take, will you?”


When kids fell out of the trees

“Första gången jag träffade er, trillade barn ur träden.”
My sister in law recently reminded me that the first time she visited us, children were falling out of the trees.
It was a summer day and we were all in the garden. Our three sons were playing with their friends and yes, they were climbing the apple tree and falling out of it. My brother and sister in law’s Jack Russel chased our cats and our dog chased their dog. (He would always protect “his” cats, even if he would happily chase other cats.)

Yes, kids were falling out of the trees. Toys were all over the house and the garden was growing above our heads.
Now the boys are all teenagers and if they fall it is rather from a moped than from an apple tree.

Life has changed. It does all the time. Too often we forget to change with it.
We tend to add things all the time, but we rarely remove anything. Not only at home, but also at work.

Consider a checklist that is helpful when created. Over the months and years of using it, anything we come up with is added. Any small mistake must be prevented so another item is added. And another one.
Suddenly you have an elephant checklist that is never used because it is too extensive to be practical.
To change when life does, regularly review what you do.
At home – are you doing all the things you did pre-kids, at the cost of having fun together with your kids or your partner?
At work – are the checklists, procedures and meetings still relevant or is it time for an update, a decluttering?

Remember the great quote from Peter Drucker:
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
We all go through different life phases. 
To enjoy whatever phase you are in right now – make room for it by removing what is no longer relevant.


Keep your foot out of your mouth, sweetie

The chairman looked at the only woman in the meeting room. She was the expert in these types of questions.
“This assignment will fit like a glove for you, sweetie. Can you start tomorrow?”
Manda looked straight at him but didn’t respond.He tried again.
“Sweetie? Manda?”

“Oh, you mean me? I thought you were referring to Victor.”
The chairman frowned.
“Victor? This is not his area of expertise.”
Manda cocked her head to the side.
“No, no it isn’t. But since he is such a sweetie, I thought you were referring to him.”
Victor tried to keep quiet, but his chuckling grew steadily louder.
The chairman looked confused and Manda was not offering any more explanation. Victor intervened.

“I think what Manda is saying, is that if you call me Victor, she wants to be called Manda. But I guess if you call me sweetie, you can call her sweetie too.”

Be aware of how you use language. Or rather, be aware of your thoughts.

As long as you truly see the individual behind every face, be it a woman or a man, a person with light skin or dark skin, a young person or an old person, you will be truly inclusive and you will automatically keep your foot out of your mouth.


Honesty is no excuse

”Well, at least I am honest about it, I tell it like it is!”
The senior project manager Victor raised his chest and chin, staring at the colleagues around the table. The junior developer who had just been told he was useless and not good enough to stay in the project, walked out of the conference room, head down. The atmosphere in the conference room was tense, cold.

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

After a few seconds of silence, Manda sighed deeply.
“Really Victor? Since when is honesty about telling people they are useless?”
“Well, he is! Have you seen his code? What was I supposed to say, that he is doing well? He isn’t!”
Manda stood up.
“Don’t use honesty as an excuse to be a bully.”
Victor also stood up, looking closely at Manda. She was one of the best ones in his team. He could not afford losing her, or her trust.
“Hey, I don’t have time to be a teacher to that kid.”
Manda put her hand on his elbow, lead him out of the room, away from the colleagues who all felt awkward. 
“I know that you want the best for the project Victor. When you calm down a bit you will remember what honesty is really about.”
Victor stopped and put his hands in his pockets.
“Well, since I am not calm yet, why don’t you remind me.”
“An honest leader would have seen his own mistake of promoting this developer too soon. And he would have handled the consequences without making someone else look bad. Honesty creates trust, Victor. Not fear.”
Victor lowered his head.
“I behaved like an asshole, didn’t I?”
Manda smiled.
“Are you sure you want an honest reply to that?”


The Beauty of Art part 18 - the answers

She will turn 99 this year. The painter of Untitled (1969) that I showed in The Beauty of Art part 18.

She has plans for her 100th birtday and when she was young she was friends with the artist Frida Kahlo.

Extract from a photo in TIME April 29-May 6, 2019

Her name is Luchita Hurtado and she was born in Caracas, Veneuela, in 1920. She has had her share of tragedies in life, including losing a child to polio, but she is optimistic by nature:
"I never said no to life. I have a responsibility to the world, to my planet."
Her paintings were discovered when a curator went through her late husband's (Lee Mullican) paintings and some of hers were in the same studio. She had had exhibitions before, but they didn't get as much attention as she has gotten lately. 

Luchita has a vision of the human body as part of the world, which can be seen in her paintings.
"My thoughts have always been that my body is just on loan to me, that I better take care of it because I have to give it back.”

Luchita is articistic in many ways. In addition to painting she has also worked with photography, designing her own clothes and writing poetry.

I find her paintings intriguing and her way of being inspiring.


The Beauty of Art part 18

Have you missed the Beauty of Art in this blog?
Wait no more, here comes...

The Beauty of Art part 18

Some artists become known early on in life.
Some late, like the artist in this Beauty of Art post.

“Because I never felt before that I needed to share. It was the other way around: I worked to please myself.”

Photo credit: Jeff Mclane

I hope the work of this artist pleases you too, and that you want to think about the following questions: 
  • Who is the artist?
  • What is the painting called?
  • How does the painting make you feel?

Keep your eyes on this blog for the answers!


It’s not the circumstances. It’s you.

Her hands were sweaty. Even her thighs were sweaty under the light blue skirt suit.
“Oh, I am so nervous”, she whispered to her assistant. He was also formally dressed with his rented dark suit. Looking up from his notepad, his mouth fell open. After a few seconds he said, hesitantly:
“You? Insecure? You are the CEO!”
“I know, and they are the board.”
“Yes, but… I am nervous whenever we go into these meetings, but I never imagined you were.”
She looked at her Armani watch. They should have already asked her to come in. Apparently, they were running late.
“Yes”, she said with a sigh. “I didn’t imagine I would be either. I used to be nervous when I was going to report in the project meetings. I thought I would no longer be nervous when I become a project manager myself. But then I was nervous whenever I had to present at a steering group meeting. When I became the program office manager, I thought I would never be nervous again, but then I had to report to the Leadership Team. And here I am, CEO and nervous to talk to the board.”

The door opened before he had a chance to say anything. As they walked into the room where the board members were sitting around the oval table, she whispered:

“You know what? They are probably nervous too. Different circumstances, same insecurity.”

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

In an interview in TIME March 4 2019, Ray Romano from Everybody loves Raymond said:
“Insecurity is relative. Before I thought my cabdriver hated me, and now I think my limo driver hates me. “
If you want to get rid of insecurity, don’t expect it to go away just because the circumstances change. Feelings and behaviours only change when you do.


Where there is a will, there is a way

The journalist put her microphone just a few millimeters from the seasoned minister’s mouth. He hoped the sweat he felt on his forehead didn’t make him glisten on TV. The question was about the homeless. What he planned to do about the growing number of people who had nowhere to live, not enough to eat.  He put on his serious face, nodded slowly and said that it was unfortunate that the economy had put many people on the street. Then he mentioned how much money the government had already invested in different initiatives, and he said that unfortunately there were no more resources available. The taxpayers were already under too much pressure.  

Lack of money.  Lack of time. Lack of resources in general. There are many reasons - or shall we be direct and call them excuses? - for not being compassionate. For not even trying to find a way.

Massimo Bottura didn’t hide behind any excuses when he decided to serve creative meals for those in need. He didn’t let “lack of resources” stop him.
He uses food that would otherwise go to waste.
He agreed with the church La Madeleine in Paris that he could borrow their basement.
And so many were inspired by his initiative that he has thousands of people volunteering to be part of the staff that serves food to homeless people and refugees.

Part of a Photo by Valentina Sommariva – published in TIME April 29 - May 6, 2019.

Whenever you are about to say “I don’t have time / I don’t have the money / we don’t have enough resources”; stop yourself.
Think again.If you really want it, if it is important enough, you will find a way.  

Just like Massimo Bottura.


How to become as wise as a dwarf

Is life too short to learn how to live?

Not if you are a dwarf.

In Honey-Bee by Anatole France, a dwarf explains that the shortness of life for humans, is the cause of our ignorance and cruelty.

 “Their life is too short for them to learn how to live.”

One of my friends once said:

”Det är svårt att leva. Tur att vi har hela livet på oss att lära oss det.”(“It is hard to live. Luckily we have our whole lives to learn how to do it.”)
When I was twenty, I had figured it all out. I had learned a lot in school and even more during the sabbatical year before university. I had travelled the world, met a lot of interesting people, widened my perspectives. I knew how this thing called life worked.

It has only gone downhill since then in that regard.

The more I understand, the more I understand how little I know. The youthful certainty has made way for humble wisdom, with an awe about everything left to learn.

Is old age a guarantee of wisdom and knowledge?

Unfortunately not. I have met old people with minds so narrow they have not learned anything new in decades. You probably have too.

As Indiana Jones said in the Raiders of the lost ark:
 “It’s not the years honey, it’s the mileage.”
If you want to learn how to live, long before you die, make good use of every day of your life. Increase the mileage - your experience – instead of letting the years just go by.

Turn off the auto pilot.

Do something you don't do everyday. 

Take another road than the one you normally travel.

Dare to deviate, to explore.

Then you may become just as wise as a dwarf, despite your shorter life.


Not even good people are good in a hurry

It’s Thursday morning, 7:12.

Breakfast club at school has already started. Lyndsey parks the car opposite to the school. Before the car has come to a halt, she asks her daughters to hurry up, to grab their bags so they can run out of the car and to the school. As always when there is no time, the little one cannot get her seat belt off and the oldest forgets the gym clothes in the car, so they must go back again, just as they were about to cross the street. 7:16. Will school let her children eat breakfast when they are this late?

Just outside of school there is a little boy, five years old. He is alone, crying. Looking at each grown up that passes him by. When Lindsey crosses the street with her daughters, he looks at her too. His lips trembling, his eyes hopeful. Lindsey rushes past the little boy, hunches down to kiss her girls goodbye before rushing back to her car to get to work.

It’s Thursday morning, 6:52.

Breakfast club starts in 8 minutes. They have plenty of time. Lyndsey parks the car opposite to the school. She talks to her daughters about their day, all the things they will do. The little one needs some help with the seat belt. Lindsey reminds the oldest to bring the gym clothes as well. As they cross the street they talk and laugh. Lindsey sees a little, sad boy just outside of school. When she comes up to him, she sits down, asks why he is sad. Has he lost mum and dad? The boy nods, tears rolling down his cheeks. Lindsey pulls him to her chest, explains that everything will be alright, she will help him.

Photo by Nicholas Githiri from Pexels

John Darley and Daniel Batson, two Princeton University Psychologists, performed a study based on the biblical story of the good Samaritan. Some seminarians in the study were told they were late. Others were told they had enough time. Of those who felt they had time, 63% stopped to help a person in distress. Only 10% of those in a hurry stopped.

Not even good people are good when they are in a hurry.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point, this is referred to as “the power of context”.

Don’t let time pressure turn you into someone you don’t want to be.
Manage your time – manage your life.


What you are ready to die for, others don’t even want

It’s European election night as I write this, and I am in Kiev, Ukraine. A few days ago, I visited Independence square, or as they call it here: Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Walking on that square and reading more about what happened here 5 years ago, reminded me that some are willing to die for what others take for granted, or don’t even want.

Euromaidan started November 2013 on the Maidan. It was a wave of demonstrations, sparked by the Ukrainian government's decision to suspend the signing of an association agreement with the European Union. There was more to it, including the perception of widespread government corruption and violation of human rights in Ukraine. The protests culminated in February 2014. More than 100 protesters were killed. Here in Ukraine the victims are often referred to the Heavenly Hundred.

In one country, people get killed for wanting to get closer to the EU. In another, discussions about how to leave the EU continue for months. And the weekend I write this, during election night, a lot of EU citizens have not even bothered to vote.

Regardless of what you think about any of this, it is a reminder that you may be willing to die for something that others don’t care about or don’t even want.
What does that mean for you?
That you should listen to your inner voice.
Don’t doubt it just because others may think differently.

  • Do you want to go for your own business rather than staying in your current job, but you doubt yourself because your colleagues are perfectly happy being employed?
  • Or are you the one loving your job, but feeling as if you should be making a major change?
  • Is everyone around you getting married, expecting you to be too, even if you like your life as single with short relationships?
  • Do you wonder if it is time to get children, even if you don’t feel ready for it?

You will not find the answers by looking at others. They are not you. Only you are you.

Give yourself at least five minutes a day, to listen to your own voice. If you haven’t heard it for a while, be patient. After some practice, the chatter in your head will calm down enough for you to hear it.

You may love what someone else doesn’t care about.
That’s OK.
Figure out what is right for you, regardless of what others do. Then give it all you’ve got.